Having realized the "dream of the century", perhaps it is time to relegate the "century of humiliation" to history where it belongs.
The Beijing Olympics has been universally proclaimed as a success. As such, the Olympics 2008 was not only a "coming out" party of China, but, more significantly, a reassurance to the Chinese people of their nation's prominent place in the world.
Indeed, the Chinese public can justifiably feel proud not so much of the medal count or the monumental sports facilities erected for the occasion, but rather of the spirit of hospitality and comradeship that went beyond national or racial divides. Chinese people shared center stage with the competing athletes in the two weeks, and they put up a spectacular show very much in the spirit of the Olympics.
The glow of the Games should have dispelled any lingering bitterness arising from the humiliating defeats China suffered in the hands of imperialist aggressors in the past century. The shaking off of this particular historic burden is of special significance at a time when more and more Chinese enterprises are seeking to move overseas either to establish a market presence or to secure reliable supply of industrial materials.
A newly gained self-assurance can free Chinese business people from the mindset that was sometimes skewed by the so-called "Chinese sensibility" that had, on occasions in the past, given rise to public suspicion and resentment even in some very private business dealings with foreign partners.
The long-running litigation between French food and beverage company Danone and Hangzhou-based Wahaha is a case in point. During the legal proceedings, Internet bloggers had whipped up a flurry of public sentiment against what was perceived as the "pillaging" of Chinese assets on Chinese soil, bringing into the mind-eye of readers vivid images of marauding merchants and their fire-breathing gun boats of yore.
Such jingoism seemed most out of place in what was nothing more than a contractual dispute between two business enterprises that was best settled in the court rather than on cyber space. Tainting the case with a false sense of nationalism achieved nothing other than running the risk of raising doubts in the minds of foreign businessmen about the impartiality of the court where the case was heard.
Those narrow-minded comments on the Danone vs Wahaha case were put to shame by the outpouring of good will in the Olympics stadiums when Chinese and foreign fans united in sharing a good time, cheering for their respective national athletes while, at the same time, showing due respect and genuine admiration to all those who performed their best in the gymnasiums and on the tracks.
With heightened self-confidence, the public is expected to greatly raise their demand for better-quality products and higher standard of services. They have been shown examples of how concerted efforts by the public and private sectors could bring about a marked improvement in the quality of life, at least in Beijing, in the past several weeks.
These improvements are not limited to cleaner taxis, less congested traffic and clearer air. They seem to have gone much deeper than the obvious indicators.
I am sure it's not just me who has felt that the standard of service in restaurants, supermarkets, department stores, neighborhood shops and coffee stands have been more friendly and compliant than before. A few days ago, I bought a red-bean slush at a street-side stand. To my surprise, it came in a cup securely sealed at the top with a plastic film. When I complained about the trouble of having to peel off the cover, the sales girl smiled and said: "Hey, pop, times have changed. That's what our customers want now."
(China Daily 09/02/2008 page8)