On Watching a Badmintion Match in China
Playing badminton in Asia is much more than than setting up the equipment that you bought at a $10 K-Mart special and then hitting the birdie a few times during your family picnic. It is a major sport and is taken quite seriously. The dominant country is the one you would expect, the biggest, China. Almost all of the world’s #1s in each category come from China. Last week was the China Open and its matches played to pack arenas cheering wildly for the home team. All of this you would expect like watching the NBA or NHL in North America.
What I didn’t expect to see in China of all places was the rather prominent VIP section which the cameras seemed to show between during every break of play. When the the NBA plays on TV in LA or New York, the camera tries to find movie stars or other celebrities because that is what America has become which it finds no embarrassment in. At the China Badminton Open, the VIPs not only got the camera, but they also were sitting in luxury boxes and were served drinks and food with real dishes in plain view of everyone else.
Watching the badminton was thrilling especially when a young Malaysian woman ( I live in Malaysia) beat the #1 Chinese woman in singles, but it struck me as quite peculiar that in a country whose political doctrine is based upon having a classless society, that this kind of action is justified with no apparent shame. The theory of communism is based upon equity, that no one is seen as higher or better than anyone else. The VIP section makes it very apparent that the China does not believe its own rhetoric. In Malaysia there is no shame about VIPs because the country has a king and queen and sultans for each state. They give them an honored place at events because it fits with the country’s model, but in China the actions do not fit with the words. What the government is saying and what it is doing are two different things.
I don’t mean to single out China for this kind of behavior because the disconnection between words and actions is certainly not unique to China. Democratic countries like the U.S. have a great deal of rhetoric about people having an equal voice and equal opportunity, but if you have a voice of opposition toward your employer, you can bet that democratic values will be thrown out the window and so will you. We all know that in the western world money and position gives you more of a voice.
The badminton was magnificent, obviously the highest quality in the world. The mismatch between words and deeds is always settled on the court in sport, but you have to wonder about having a VIP section in China and what effect that has the people.