Beijing Beat blog with Mark Godfrey

Beijing Beat

Beijing's 'Vigilantes'

Aug 4

Written by:
8/4/2008 6:00 AM  RssIcon

Western media reports in run up to Games are heavy on the hype, not too good at digging into the city's modern menaces

It seems strange to have you next door neighbours described as 'vigilantes'. But that's one of many cheap, and often unresearched shots, taken by western media on arrival in Beijing to cover the Olympic Games. Official corruption, abuse of migrant workers and the questionable air quality - not to mind the appalling tastelessness of the local nouveau riche are all fair targets for reportage. But some of the reports I've read over the weekend are just plain lazy cliches. The vigilantes reference - in the Economist, which I didn't expect - was a bit over the top, considering those the term describes are invariably local retirees running neighbourhood watch schemes. True, in the past their role often had more sinister, Stasi-like overtones and duties but I'm too used to being hooted at, and seeing these old folks being hooted at, by wealthy Chinese trying to get by in their new Ford/Mercedes/BMW to think these people are seen as any threat anymore. Too much of the coverage concentrates on easy targets - the vigilantes and the trying-ever-so-hard locals who are trying to quit spitting and queue jumping for the duration of the Games. I'd like to read more about how and why the people driving SUVs around town, those so devoid of good taste or common courtesies, appear to be running and owning modern China. How they got their wealth is a far more interesting story.

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