Priorities, Priorities

Every morning and evening, I get a great short news text message to my phone that includes the weather and top stories in different areas (domestic news, sports, entertainment, etc.). For the past 2 weeks, I've also gotten a message each afternoon informing me about the days goings on at the "Two Meetings" taking place here in Beijing. Before Wen Jiabao's major news conference today, yesterday's post carried 10 "Questions from the People". They were on the following topics and in the following order:

1. the Olympics
2. Environmental Protection
3. Arable Land
4. the Price of Goods
5. Salary
6. Housing Costs
7. Employment
8. Education
9. Medical treatment
10. Service Oriented Governance

I am not sure who came up with the list, the questions were submitted by readers, and I'm guessing as the service is through China Mobile, somebody at Xinhua or below organized the list and picked the questions.

Is the list reflective? I don't think arable land is a big concern in Beijing or Shanghai and I think it would be replaced by food safety, but in the countryside, which makes up the majority of the country, I can imagine it being a concern. The rest, with one glaring exception (guess which one?) are probably pretty accurate and, honestly, reflect the concerns of most people in China and, I'd venture to say, a poll of what concerns US citizens in the leadup to Election 2008 would look fairly similar.

The glaring exception, if you guessed number 1, we have a winner! I was extremely proud when Beijing won the Olympics and despite all the hassles it will bring, I'm looking forward to August, but, especially in light of recent events, its time to start downplaying this as China's Games and leave the focus on Beijing (a nearly impossible task). Beer bottle collectors in Bengbu, factory workers in Dongguan, and school teachers in Anshan are NOT concerned about the Olympics (let alone people in Xinjiang, Qinghai, and that large area south of Qinghai). At this point, is there anybody who actually believes the Olympics will be pulled off without a hitch? I would love to think so, but with China's PR bluffs, thousands of athletes and visitors, and cultural differences (just look at the problems Korean autograph seekers faced at the baseball game over the weekend), at this point (way too late), its time for China to really start lowering expectations. BOCOG should say things like, "if the Olympics come and go and the world hasn't been blown up, we'd count that as a success." Sure, it might sound crazy, but on the other hand, with the first minor blowup, the media is sure to be condemning China.

Flip that list upside down and, with the exception of the environment, now we're talking. Leave the Olympics to Beijing and let the government focus once again on 为人民服务 ("Serving the People").

Anyone else have any thoughts on the list?

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