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CHINA and the Olympics



Paul Simon reports:"I was living in Korea at the time of the 1988 Olympics. Much like the earlier Olympics in Tokyo, the Koreans viewed the event as marking their nation "coming of age". Unfortunately, the PRC is nowhere as far along the road as either of its Asian neighbors were when they hosted the event, and the price tag has gone way up since 1988. The majority of China's population, about 80%, live on under $250 a year and have falling incomes, according to Jasper Becker in The Chinese. The Ginni co-efficient admitted officially here (last spring) is barely under the dangerous .4 mark. Private experts have estimated it may really be as high as .57. Given this, one cannot but wonder if the Olympiad funds could be better spent on pressing social needs.

An obvious target would be education. Millions of rural Chinese are unable to may school fees and are withdrawing their children, according to many published accounts. My personal experience is that illiteracy is astronomical here in South Central China. John DeFrancis is the guru of Chinese linguists in the west; he ran the program at Harvard for decades, then moved to the superb program at the University of Hawaii. In The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy, he asserted that most PRC nationals were illiterate, government statistics notwithstanding. When I moved from Taiwan to Manchiuia in 1999, I didn't encounter too many illiterate people and became skeptical of DeFrancis. Then I moved to Sichuan this summer and now I BELIEVE! I resort more to writing here because many locals don't speak decent Mandarin, only Sichuan dialect. I find thus that most people on the street can't read even simple addresses! I'd be spending my 30 billion on education, not natatoriums and velodromes, if I was the Great Red Sun of China..."

My comment: Before posting items, I check to make sure the references are accurate (which takes time!). In checking the bibliography of John DeFrancis, I cam across this item which is relevant to our discussion of Chinese spelling: DeFrancis, John,"Mao Tse-tung and writing reform", Fogel, Joshua A. and William T. Rowe, eds. Perspectives on a changing China: essays in honor of Professor C. Martin Wilbur on the occasion of his retirement. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1979. 1979 137-154

Ronald Hilton - 1/4/02


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