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China is changing

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James Reynolds | 15:12 UK time, Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The Chinese Communist Party has taken away my opening line. A month or two ago, when I thought about how I'd start this blog, this seemed like the best way to begin: "If you're reading these words, you're not in China." (a nice, pithy start that I was extremely proud of.) At the time, the Chinese government blocked access to this website - it had done so for years, for reasons that were never entirely explained.

Celebrations in BeijingBut several weeks ago the English-language version of BBC News Online was quietly unblocked. So now anyone in China can read these words. I lost an opening line - but with luck this blog has gained a much bigger pool of readers. The unblocking of this website shows just how much China is changing - what you say on one day may be entirely out of date by the next day.

So, let's start ...

One hundred days to go before the Beijing Olympics get started (ask anyone in China how many days there are to go - and most will get it right. It's hard to get it wrong when there are giant countdown clocks in Beijing which remind you exactly how many days, hours, minutes and seconds there are before the games begin.) To say that the Olympics are important to China is a bit like saying that oxygen is important to life. The games are the biggest event that Communist China has ever staged. This country wants to get it right - with no room for any mistakes.

That's why it has been a bit stunned by the battered progress of the torch relay on its world tour. What China had in mind was a kind of lap of honour - legions of cheerful fans across the world cheering the torch along its way.

Instead, we've all seen the pictures of protests and disruptions. In China, many people take the torch relay demonstrations personally. One student from Beijing told me that the pro-Tibet protests in London and Paris had hurt his feelings. So, he has decided to organise a pro-China rally in Hong Kong when the torch relay gets going again on May 2nd.

I'll be in the crowds to tell you how the relay goes on Friday.


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