One World One Dream
A pale florescence weakly glowed through the green-grey miasma of floating sand, making the city look as though it was underwater. The airport had to be closed for the fifth time this month. All the air traffic caught in a mandala of coloured sand, swirling beneath the cloud line.
Xie’s fingers left a greasy stain on the polished pane of the Fortune Plaza’s business suite. Yao Xie, wealthy, powerful, Secretary of the Urban Redevelopment Committee, felt the shudder of the sand storm spiral around the contours of the building.
He checked his iPhone and took a swig of coke from its newly designed can – Coca Cola a worldwide partner of The Olympic Games. It was half past seven; by now the brachial arteries of the city would be clogged full. He extracted a worn packet of “Double Lucky” from his shirt pocket and produced a pure white stem embossed with the ‘M’ of Philip Morris’ Marlboro. He had once overseen the export of China’s local tobacco and it had almost made him quit smoking.
In the haze, the lights of Beijing soared like a quicksilver dragon through the cityscape. The night had made it almost ethereal, seemingly floating on a vast, shimmering sea.
But then there was a field of darkness to the right, as though the city had suddenly plunged into a sinkhole.
He could see it now, almost feel it under his gaze.
Ashy, battered roof tiles that started at the edge of the new high-rise buildings. There, the darkness ran for a good quarter of a kilometre, hobbling over lit veins and sprawling like a stain on a glowing map of an international city.
The Hutongs stood there. The old Beijing that housed the poor.
Behind Xie glowed the model of the Olympic village in golden glory. Five circles interlocked, with the colours; blue, black, red, yellow and green that would constitute all the flags of the world.
But before him were the Hutongs.
An eyesore on the horizon.
A roadblock to China’s great flaunt to the West.
Emily, news reporter:
“Yes Tom, this was an event seven years and 40 billion USD in the making. China is getting ready for the big show of power and wealth to the world, but all is not well in the heartland where the very village itself is being built.”
“You can see behind me that the peaceful protesters are determined to camp here until the Beijing municipal government acknowledges the historical significance of these buildings, and promises that they will not be destroying them to build the Olympic village.”
“Tom! The Secretary of the Urban Redevelopment Committee has just come out to greet the protestors.
“His is shaking the hands of the protestors Tom. This is an extraordinary turn of events.”
“Does this mean that China is trying to change its image of human rights abuse? The Olympics is the first time the country will be watched by over 4 billion people worldwide, more focus is on this country now than during the revolution of 1949.”
A black, burnished, Mercedes pulled up to the curb. A dark rose amongst the wayward weeds of The Hutong Village. I checked the mirror one last time, before I strode out in front of the rolling cameras, my hand smoothed silver hair back.
There was a thundering throng of filthy Hutong residents, each of them bearing red and yellow signs and the Chinese national flag.
“Mr Yao Xie”
On the left, two white cameramen aimed at me and I did what I do best. I smiled. My pale hand came out of the safety of its pockets and shook with the wrinkly brown of an elderly Hutong woman and within a second, her mouth was spluttering out words that I didn’t want to hear.
I smiled and nodded in response before moving onto the next dirty hand.
The protestors managed to snipe out occasional words in mandarin, spit splattering like bullets.
“Mr Secretary! Mr Secretary, you came! Thank you….”
The Beijing dialect was so abrupt and guttural, it disgusted me, Mandarin has been the official language of China for about… lets say… five decades now? Yet these people still refuse to learn. How can we make China an international super power if we don’t even have a unified language like English?
Amid disheveled pants and muddy shoes, I spotted a grotesquely skeletal body. It belonged to frail young boy wearing a torn blue Nike t-shirt squatting amongst the crowd. His almond eyes looked up at me admirably, like he wanted something from me, a beggar outside the underground metro.
In his eyes I saw another boy, a skinny, miserable thing of many years ago.
Heibei Province. 1988.
Mud brick houses dotted the landscape as though the blonde fields of rice had been afflicted with pox. A boy of a dozen summers stared as brightly coloured machinery, larger than he had ever seen before inched closer behind hard hatted men. Amongst the bruit, black boots upholstered in Italian leather thumped the yellow dirt.
“I am telling you Huang Xie, you have to go, The Olympic Village has not progressed. That reason is you Xie.”
The voice came from an official decked in the olive green of the politburo.
“This land has been ours for over a hundred years!” His father pleaded. The boy felt the tension in the air even he felt the insignificance of his father, face the deep scarlet of Chinese pork liver, on his knees before the man in the handsome olive khaki.
“Are you not a patriot?” The official asked suddenly.
“We need this land to build The Bird’s Nest. Planning has already been done. The other areas have already been marked for clearing. If you do not want the government to waste millions of dollars, you should put the harmony of the nation before your selfish desires.”
The boy’s father was stunned. To speak against the government was anathema, but this was his family’s land, his son would inherit it one day, how could he let it go.
His hands moved to clutch that of the official, it was the only thing he could do. Perhaps he would acknowledge his legitimacy. Dirt caked fingers touched the smooth skin of the official, who seemed to physically recoil and at once the men around them sprang to action, batons extending. Blows rained down on him as they played him like a skin drum, the thwacking of an unprofitable sack of rice.
The boy curled like the grub of a beetle into the yellow earth as his father’s whimpering turned to howls, then to utterances that were no longer human. His eyes darted to and from his father and the smartly dressed man, to the bright red Coca-Cola advertisements, he could smell the smoldering scent of the Marlboro. He focused his mind upon that strange paper cylinder as the world outside faded. He knew which life he wanted to live.
It would all change. Everything from since he was that little boy of a dozen summers.
Xie knew that soon he would scour the rot from this blistering wound of China, until it could heal.
A black, burnished, Mercedes pulled out from the curb as the motorcycle patrol made way for it. Xie sat back in the leather comfort watching the Hutong crowd being pushed back by the municipal city guards as the Western cameras rolled on.
A frail young boy wearing a torn blue Nike t-shirt scrambled around the cops trying to reach the car, he feasted his bloodshot eyes, at the handsome Secretary inside the shining black metal. He knew which life he wanted to live.
Xie felt a slight shudder snake down his back as he watched the boy get struck down by a spiked jackboot, but insensitively, he turned away, with an extended arm he found the Double Lucky packet, pulling out one of his American cigarettes. A pure white stem fixed in between his fair fingers, before he raised it to his lips and drew on it with splendid satisfaction.
It was going to be the glorious century of the yellow man.