Even though Buxi isn’t back, why don’t we return to a fine tradition of this blog? This post from Niubo (牛博), a Chinese forum often filled with discontent with how things are, has something interesting to add about the age of Olympic gymnast He Kexin. Translation below:
On the question of the Chinese gymnast He Kexin’s age, one fact is certain, that is, there is an inconsistency between the local athletic bureau and the central athletic bureau. So, is it that:
1. The local athletic bureau is correct, and the central athletic bureau changed her age to older?
2. The local athletic bureau falsified, and changed her age to younger?
In the eyes of foreign dudes (waiguo lao), so long as the gathered information, when put on a timeline, gives her age as 13 years old (presently 14 years old) first, then possibility 2 has the highest possibility. It shows that in its quest for gold, China will stoop to cheating. If this storyline is pushed forward some more, it can represent that China’s nationalism is grafted in such and such a way onto its totalitarian system, which will be terrifying like so, similar to 1936, etc….
An excellent storyline. But, from my experience in this country, it’s not like this. A greater possibility is, the local athletic bureau changed her age to younger, so she could participate in the Inter-City Competition. In truth, nearly all age-related alterations have happened in competitions internal to China. The goal is for the local sports officials, various levels of athletic schools, and parents to conspire and “rationally” exploit regulations to win more resources, honor, and — the biggest motivator of all — political achievements for the local sports officials and connected entities in the bureaucratic resource allocation game of the sports system.
In the Chinese bureacracy, this game has quietly gone on for years… the widespread extent of which, if one were to inquire, would be startling. It’s just that this time, this game has been exposed on the net and in the media, and has been found out… As can be seen below, He Kexin was a traded athlete in the Inter-City Competition, so the interests involved here are huge. If some mischief transpired, I wouldn’t be surprised…
The reason I hold a different view from the foreigners is because I’ve long believed China’s current system is one that appears totalitarian on the face, but is driven by special interests in reality. It isn’t a high speed totalitarian machine driven by ideological fervor toward a singular goal. In the former, the decisive factor of how things run is more the selfish desires behind the grand formality and the greed behind ambition. When the foreigners see China sparing no efforts for the Olympics, they immediately think China is up to something, and out comes the China threat theory. In reality, the greater possibility is in this big party, there are too many people who want a cut of the profits, so they spare no efforts all for enriching a small minority, nothing more than that.
Therefore, the possibility of a local official changing an age to younger for political gain, is far far greater than the possibility of changing an age to older at the central level, hoho.
Then the author provides two appendices. The first appendix is a newspaper article on the Inter-City Competition, with a paragraph that states an age-limit band of 13 to 15 years for gymnastics. The article also notes that the Inter-City Competition is mostly a proving ground for the 2012 Olympics.
The second appendix is a partial list of traded athletes between various local athletic bureaus. He Kexin is listed as being on loan for 2 years by the Beijing Bureau to the Wuhan Bureau. Birthday is listed as 1994 in this list, and seems to be essentially the same database that “the foreigners” found online. He Kexin would be useless to the Wuhan Bureau for the 2007 Inter-City Competition, if her real birthday was in 1992, making her over 15.
In fact, in the comments to a prior post, I’ve raised the point that Chinese parents change birthdays of children quite often for a variety of reasons or advantages, to older or younger, hence the possibility that things could go either way with He Kexin. He really could be 16, yet still nobody would want to come out and explain the age changing in local competitions — that’s just another can of worms. Anyway, this certainly isn’t proof of anything nor is it great news. The point is simply that, before jumping to conclusions on something having to with China, it is worth considering the other possilities, and at the least, consider that other possibilities do exist.
Finally, I hope this kind of fudging the formality culture is lost in China. It really is bad for the development of the rule of law.
Update from Admin: I have moved comments from the Chinese gymnasts age controversy post by Charles Liu to this thread.