Saturday, February 5, 2022


The Olympics are as famous for their show aspect as for their sporty highlights. Often the kitsch is forgiven since the intentions are actually well meant and are staged for bona fide entertainment. The Summer Olympics in Los Angeles still count as one of the best shows in history. China's Summer Olympics were spectacular.

These Winter Olympics are a totally different "cup of tea". The pandemic weighs in on the flow and fun. The unavoidable medical checkpoints also give the Chinese an alibi to weaponize their control with an extra layer of political intention. These are there to stay.

The preliminaries of the games looked stolen from a North Korean playbook. The Americans could watch the consummation of Dr. Kissinger's worst nightmare: the undoing of the modus vivendi between Washington and Beijing. The American diplomacy rested on the imperative that any rapprochement between what was then the Soviet Union and the P.R.C. had to be avoided at all costs. President Nixon was willing to go an extra mile in the Shanghai communique. Nothing lasts forever, but meanwhile the Putin/Xi Siegfried idyll leaves the US with a serious hangover.

The West does not fare well in this new century. It feels in decline, even hesitant to claim the high ground. America's two halves fail to find common ground. Europe has nothing going for it, stuck in between the folly in London and the rage in Budapest. No wonder Putin feels strong, following in Stalin's footsteps who did not hesitate to go for a ride with Hitler for the promise of land.

Which brings us to Ukraine, the hapless Cinderella nobody "really" wants. Even Putin's heart is not into it. He is just another Russian, obsessed with quantity and impervious to quality. Tolstoy mastered both, Pasternak tried, Solzhenitsyn failed. 

There is a lot of talk about rise and decline. There is too little attention given to the culture wars which are going on in the West. The brigades which march for freedoms, that nobody contests by the way, could not set a step out of their door in Russia or China. The Western media are corroded by fake news, alternative facts and invented plots, when they are not manipulated by hackers elsewhere. The danger inside looms larger than the menace outside. No need to read Spengler, suffice to watch the goings on in Futbol, the best indicator that misbehaving is the new normal.

In Beijing, nothing of that will happen. The thousands of years of Chinese civilization can pause until this winter comes to its unglorios end. Unfortunately time is running out and the fortune cookies tell the story of a climate change that runs faster than this Chinese New Year's tiger.  Some see the beast coming better than others.

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