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Where is the "gentlemenship"?
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10:57, April 15, 2008

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Fu Ying, Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom, wrote an article titled "Reflections on the Torch Relay" on Apr 13, in which she shared her experiences in the torch relay in London and her concerns about mutual perceptions between the people of China and the West. Below is Fu Ying's article:

Reflections on the Torch Relay

In the morning of April 6th, looking at the snow flakes falling outside the window, I could not but wonder:what the torch relay would be like?

About 8 hours later, when the torch finally struggled through the route, Olympic gold medalist Dame Kelly Holmes ran up to light the Olympic cauldron at O2 Dome, and 4,000 spectators cheered, obviously with a sense of relief.

This day will be remembered as Beijing met London with splashes and sparkles. It was an encounter between China, the first developing country to host the Olympics, and Britain, the first western country to greet the 2008 torch.

On the bus to the airport, I was with some young girls from the Beijing team, including an Olympic Gold Medalist Miss Qiao. They were convinced that the people here were against them. One girl remarked she couldn't believe this land nourished Shakespeare and Dickens. Another asked: where is the "gentlemenship"? I used all my knowledge to argue for London, and looking into their watery eyes, I knew I was not succeeding.

I can't blame them. They were running between vehicles for the whole day, noses red and hands cold, trying to service the torch bearers. They had only about three hours of sleep the previous night and some were having lunch sandwiches just now. Worse still, they had to endure repeated violent attacks on the torch throughout the relay. I was fortunate to sit at the rear of the bus and saw smiling faces of Londoners who came out in the tens of thousands, old people waving and young performers dancing, braving the cold weather.

In the darkness of a London night, waving the chartered plane good-bye, I had a feeling the plane was heavier than when it landed. The torch will carry on and the journey will educate the more than a billion Chinese people about the world and the world about China.

A young friend in China wrote to me after watching the event on the BBC: "I felt so many things all at once--sadness, anger and confusion". It must have dawned on many like him that simply a sincere heart was not enough to ensure China's smooth integration with the world. The wall that stands in China's way to the world is thick.

In China what's hot at this moment on the internet, which China has 200 million users there, is not only the attempts to snatch the torch but also some moving images of Jin Jing, a slim young and girl, a Paralympic athlete in a wheelchair, helped by a blind athlete. She held a torch with both arms to her chest as violent "protesters" tried repeatedly to grab it from her during the Paris relay. There is especially infuriated criticism of some of the mis-reporting of China in recent weeks such as crafting photos or even using photos from other countries to prove a crackdown.

On the other side of the wall, the story is different. Standing in the middle, I am concerned that mutual perceptions between the people of China and the West are quickly drifting in opposite directions.

I cannot help asking, why when it comes to China, the generalized accusations can easily be accepted without people questioning what exactly and specifically they mean. Why any story or figures can stay on the news for days without factual support.

Even my own participation in the torch relay had been the subject of continuous speculation. I remember a local friend said "we all like to read media stories. Only when it comes to ourselves do we know they can't all be true."

Of those who protested loudly, many probably have not seen Tibet. For the Chinese people, Tibet is a loved land and information about it is ample. 4 million tourists visit Tibet every year. The past 5 years saw the income of farmers and herdsmen increasing by 83.3%. In 2006 there were more than 1,000 schools with 500,000 students. In this Autonomous region where 92% of the population is Tibetans, there are 1780 temples, or one for every 1,600 people, which is more than in England, where there is one church for every 3,125 people. On the complicated question of religion mixing with politics, separation is unacceptable. But people are well-fed, well-clothed and well-housed. That has been the main objective of China for centuries. Tibet may not grow into an industrial place like the eastern cities in China, but it will move on like other parts of China.

I personally experienced China's transition to opening up, from small steps to bigger strides. I remain a consistent and firm supporter of opening up.

The latest events have led the younger generation of Chinese, those born since the 80s, who grew up in a more prosperous, better educated and freer China, to begin a collective rethinking about the West. My daughter, who loves western culture, must have used the word "why" dozens of times in our long online chat. Her frustration could be felt between the lines. Many who had romantic views about the West are very disappointed at the media's attempt to demonize China. We all know demonization feeds a counter reaction.

I do pray from the bottom of my heart that the younger generation of Chinese will not be totally disillusioned about the West, which remains an important partner in our ongoing reform.

Many complain about China not allowing enough access to the media. In China, the view is that the Western media needs to make an effort to earn respect. Coming to China to report bad stories may not be welcomed but would not be stopped as China is committed to opening up. China is far from perfect and it is trying to address the many problems that do exist. It would be helpful to the credibility of the Western media if the issues they care and write about are of today's China, not of the long gone past.

In my one year in the UK, I have realized there is a lot more media coverage about China, than when I was a student here in the mid-80s and most of it is quite close to the real life in China, good or bad. China is also in an era of information explosion. I am sure that more and more people in the West will be able to cross the language and cultural barriers and find out more about the real China.

The world has waited for China to join it, now China has to have the patience to wait for the world to understand China.

By Fu Ying, Chinese Ambassador to the UK

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