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China's Flat Earth: History and 8 August 2008*


The opening ceremony of the 29th Olympiad in Beijing was celebrated in China as an opportunity for the country to “tell its story to the world.” This article offers a forensic analysis of that story and how it was created under Party fiat with the active collaboration of local and international arts figures. In a scene-by-scene description of the ceremony, the article also reviews the symbiotic relationship of avant-garde cultural activists and the party-state, a relationship that has continuously evolved throughout the Reform era (since 1978). It also discusses contentious historical issues related to the revival of real and imagined national traditions in the era of China's re-emergence on the global stage.

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Frank Dikötter , The Age of Openness: China before Mao (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008)

Judith Farquhar and Qicheng Zhang , “Biopolitical Beijing: pleasure, sovereignty, and self-cultivation in China's capital,” Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 20, No. 3 (2005), pp. 303–07

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The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
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