October 6, 2008

Feature: Olympic Cheerleaders Point New Direction for China’s Diplomacy (1)

Feature: Olympic cheerleaders point new direction for China's diplomacy (1) By Xinhua writer Wu Chen

BEIJING, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- To outsiders, the "official" Beijing Olympic cheer can be a little odd.

Since it was approved by the Chinese government, 800,000 volunteers have been practicing the routine to cheer on athletes -- both Chinese and foreign -- at the Games last August.

It's the concept of the four-step cheer that's puzzling, rather than the routine itself, which is easy to learn:

-- Clap twice, shouting "Olympics".

-- Give the thumbs up with your arms extended upward, shouting "Go".

-- Clap twice, shouting "China".

-- Punch the air with your fists, your arms extended, shouting "Go".

Why the need for an official Olympic cheer?

According to the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, which unveiled the routine in June, it "demonstrates to the world the charisma of the Chinese people and our enthusiasm".

But the Olympic chant also symbolizes the government's acknowledgement that China's image-making in the world is now pretty much up to the people than government

The Olympics will be a crucial test yet of China's "people-to- people diplomacy" -- and its outcome could determine the future influence of the wider society in China's international bridge- building.

The chant is one of the measures in the government's "civilization campaign" to educate its people on their public behavior for the Olympics.

The "official etiquette watchdog", the Communist Party's Spiritual Civilization Steering Committee, is also promoting "queuing days" to encourage the formation of orderly lines, and waging war against spitting and littering.

Chen Haosu, president of the non-governmental Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPFFC), says millions of foreigners will come to China during and after the Games, and some will even stay in local people's homes.

Individuals will contribute to diplomacy as long as they communicate goodwill to the world, he says.

Most Chinese may consider diplomacy the preserve of professional diplomats acting for the government. In fact, the people have played leading roles in modern China's international relations, most famously with the "ping-pong (table tennis) diplomacy" between the United States and China in 1971.

Former Premier Zhou Enlai raised the concept of "people-to- people diplomacy" in the mid 1950s, leading to the establishment of the CPFFC in 1954, which has since become the major channel for China's non-governmental diplomacy.

The CPFFC, where Chen has worked for almost 20 years, has developed relations with foreign organizations and individuals, organized tours abroad by arts troupes and set up a global network of "friendship cities". (More)

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