Roll up those taxi windows, drag your bags through security… this only comes every ten years. Beijing’s bitter wind welcomed 2270 delegates yesterday to shine their shoes and take their seats in a room booked for the “18th National Congress”. While the U.S. lets out its breath to enjoy another four years under Obama’s leadership, China prepares itself for a new president and premier (7 of the 9 current Politburo Standing Committee members are retiring this year). Xi Jinping, the likely candidate to replace President Hu Jintao, emphasized four main questions to be addressed at this year’s conference, namely: What flag will we wave? What path will we follow? And in what state of mind? To continue advancing towards what kind of goals? (我们党将举什么旗、走什么路、以什么样的精神状态、朝着什么样的目标继续前进) Specific, I know. Citizens wait eagerly to see what solutions the committee generates for problems like insufficient health care, inflated real estate, and the growing gap between the rich and poor. As news stations flash snippets of animated discussions over round mahogany tables, the mysterious lure of the national government grows in the eyes of the people. Local and provincial governments may be corrupt or unfair, but loyalty towards the national government is a tradition that stretches back thousands of years, born from the people’s innocent dependency and undying hope in a power that remains faceless. Just as religion presses followers to have faith in what they cannot see, a government too can round up millions of supporters if only by providing a mirage of hope.
The day has finally arrived. I made a friend out of a non-English speaking, complete stranger but fun, young Chinese person. I know, it really shouldn’t be that difficult, but every ingredient in the equation must be spot on for success. I’ll give a brief run down of the events as they unfolded:
It started on our way back from dinner, I spotted a soccer game on campus and was dying to go watch but had forgotten my blog-critical camera in the dorm. Ten minutes later with retrieved camera in hand I was a lone soul (lone foreigner, that is) standing along the sidelines trying to fit in as best a complete oddity can. It wasn’t long before the typical “Haloo, photo?” questioning local snapped a few pictures of my apparently (you by this time know) to-die-for foreign face. I was about to turn down the third person for a photo when to my surprise, he instead asked if I wanted to help his friends cheer on the team. Without hesitation I agreed, and by half-time he’d persuaded me to (completely alone) wish the whole team a loud Chinese “YOU WILL WIN!” cheer because I was “their only American friend” and “it would mean so much…”. I cautiously stood before the team with my friend tugging my arm, egging me on with every plea he could think of. Finally, the words left my mouth–actually, louder than expected– and I felt the weight of astonished silence fall around the shocked faces before me. I stood cringing in embarrassment but within a second the entire field and spectators erupted in cheers of amusement at this crazy girl piping in a little Chinese pep-talk.
Turns out he and his friends and the team (well, both teams) are all co-workers at Intel down the street from our campus. So I’ve found a perfect Beijing tour guide and lo and behold, he actually supports the language pledge.
Here’s a quick video of the best/last moments of the game, the ones cheering quite passionately are my 朋友 (Go blue!). Also, if you’re wondering about the guards in the background of the photo above, I, like you, have no idea what they were doing; they raised and lowered that flag about ten times throughout the night and marched around.