Posted 24 days ago
I am a huge fan of Peter Hessler, who has been writing in The New Yorker for two decades. His last article, Manufacturing Diplomacy was incredible, as was his early reporting on the lockdowns in China at the start of the global COVID pandemic.
This article takes a more comical lean, as Hessler is a novice skiier and clearly finds the idea of brand new ski resorts for a culture that hasn't traditionally had a lot of skiing pretty funny. He also goes into some of the moral questions of the Olympic Committtee with alegations of human rights violations in China, but that is a secondary part of this piece.
Hessler also talks about much of his life, which I appreciate, because I am growing to really like him as a writer. Popping back and forth between China and the US is something that I plan to do (I live in Catalonia now, not China but the action is similar) and hearing about his life makes me reflect on what mine might be like.
I also really liked this comparison:
In Colorado and other parts of the American West, ski towns have a standard genesis story. Usually, there’s a connection with some mines that went bust, and often a charismatic individual envisions a future in skiing and tourism. Over time, the narrative changes to a tale of excess. Real-estate prices become obscene; boutiques sell things that nobody needs.
Chongli’s early development included these basic elements: the mines, the charismatic tycoon, the sudden influx of capital. But, as with many Chinese versions of things that are familiar in the West, the details seem to have been scrambled and redefined. It’s like reading a translation in which the meaning of each word has been shifted ever so slightly, until, in the end, it tells a different story.
The US is a pretty unique place for all the ridiculousness that we have, but it is funny to see how other places mirror, but drastically change, what we have done. For example, here in Catalonia, people live hamburger, BBQ joints, and breweries, idealizing the American west, but then when you actually try the burgers, they are even better! Yesterday I went to an "Italian Craft Beer House" and was absolutely blown away at how good the beer was, even though America is generally known as the craft beer place these days (ignoring Germany and the like of course).
As far as boycotting the Olympics for human rights violations, I'm not too sure that even has sway anymore. I mean the US hosted the 2002 Olympics just after the War in Afghanistan, which I think many people would argue, was also a human rights violation. In the crazily complex world of today, I agree we need to look out for this, but boycotting the entire Olympics because of what a small regime in China has done, similar to many regimes in other countries over the years, doesn't really make much sense. I'm not justifying that, but just agree with the people that the Olympics will help with visibility into the country, rather than a boycott.