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In China, Looks Are Everything

New America Media, News Analysis, Jun Wang Posted: Aug 15, 2008

Editor's Note: The controversy over little Miaoke Lin lip-synching during the Olympic opening ceremony has split the Chinese blogosphere and shocked the West. Jun Wang is a Los Angeles-based reporter for New America Media.

In China, everything has to look perfectly good, especially if its related to the Beijing Olympics. The opening ceremony did look magnificently grand. However, it has set off serious arguments around the world.

Everyone knows now that Miaoke Lin, the nine-year-old girl who appeared to be singing the Hymn to the Motherland in the Olympics opening ceremony, was not the singer at all. The voice belonged to Peiyi Yang, a seven-year-old girl, who sang from backstage.

Video: Miaoke Lin at the opening ceremony

The switch was revealed by Qigang Chen, music director of the Olympics opening ceremony, days after the event. He said directors didnt let Yang perform on the stage because they were concerned about her appearance. This is a matter of national interest. The girl must look good and perform good, Chen said.

The remark provoked many Chinese to post comments on the Internet. Wrote one: Why not put Huan Liu, Chinas top singer without a popular face, singing behind the stage and bring some handsome face to move his mouth beside Sarah Brightman on the stage to boost Chinas national interest?

Xi Lin, a famous Chinese composer said that for him, fake-singing is not a problem at all. But Chens explanation makes him angry. Lin said he doesnt see much difference between the two girls in terms of appealing faces. But he believes the national image of China must be incredibly easy to shake if its based on a performers looks.

The Chinese are split over the two-girl issue.

Supporters of the opening director Yimou Zhang say all the performances at the opening were teamwork. Nobody thinks Ning Li, the legendary gymnast, actually flew around the bird-nest stadium to light the Olympic torch all by himself. Its very clear that there are tons of people working unseen behind him. Nobody asks to list all their names after Li.

Pretty Corn argued back on the same website: I dont oppose fake singing or so-called cooperation, but Yang didnt get her credit.

The playbill handed out at the opening ceremony is criticized as misleading. It shows Actress A: Peiyi Yang, Actress B: Miaoke Lin. Translated, that would indicate that Lin would be Yangs substitute if Yang cant make the show. A post by ysy ysy asks Why not put singer: Peiyi Yang, performer Miaoke Lin? Why (didnt anyone) bring this up in the press conference immediately after the opening ceremony?

Giving credit might not be a big problem in China, but most people, on both sides of the issue, worry about what effect all this will have on the little girls, especially on Peiyi Yang. Her appearance has been officially evaluated as negatively affecting Chinas national image.

The girls experience has no doubt taught them that outward appearances, if superior, can definitely give them more opportunities and glory.

Lin and her parents received so many interview requests from the media that the little girl had to suggest to her mother that she turn off her cell phone and tell the media its out of battery power.

Lin told the media, Uncle Zhang (the Olympic opening director) said my voice is splendid. According to the Wuhan Evening News, Lins new job was to perform for three minutes in a movie, for which she reportedly got paid 600,000 RMB (about 90,000 USD).

Before the Olympics show, Lin had shot dozens of TV ads and performed in many shows. Her journalist father and celebrity grandfather are believed to have worked hard to promote Lin in the entertainment industry.

Family backgrounds are investigated as a tangible clue for Lin and some other kids who won in the nationwide competition to perform at the opening ceremony.

Muzi Li, the little girl sitting beside pianist Lang Lang while he was playing in the opening, is also at the center of a controversy. She was found to have a real estate magnate mother, whos from a high level Chinese government leaders family. Lis mother went to Harvard University. Rumors circulating on the Internet say she is married to the son of Qinghong Zen, the mysteriously low-profile former Chinese Vice President.

Ironically, an online post on Wenxuecity by Registration Info 123 points out, All the faults belong to Peiyi Yang. She stirred up the conflicts. Why wasnt she born to a powerful family? Shes from a grass root family but with a golden voice. If she were from a national leaders family, or at least had some powerful relatives, but still with your harming-Chinas-image face, I bet nobody dare to bully her. Her talent would have put her on the stage, instead of playing the hero-behind-the-stage.

According to Star Entertainment News Service, Peiyi Yang and her dad said there are a lot of people working behind the stage for the Olympics opening ceremony. They are very content that Yangs voice got into the world party. The China-based entertainment news service believes that Yang will start a blog soon, just like Lin has done.

An online post by peace lover intends to redirect the heated arguments. It says tha according to the Chinese value of collectivism, Yangs a hero behind the stage, who sacrificed her personal recognition for the people. Its an award for her to bring the secret deal into light. But Western values say its a violation of individuals right. So they (Western countries) do such things everyday, but cover them up.

Rosyleaf posted on Huaren, a Chinese online forum, says that the Yang issue starts being harmonized. The news has been filtered from heavily visited Chinese websites like Sina, CCTV, Chinanews , etc.

cxl commented on MITBBS.com , the top Chinese Internet forum in the United States, says that In China, anything that doesnt look perfect has to be covered up. The poster hopes China will grow stronger, so the country can be confident enough to care less how it looks.

Related Articles:

Could the Olympics Widen the Gap Between China and the World?

Are the Olympics Still Relevant to Black People?

China Olympics Human Rights Act Passed in Congress

From Prude to Lewd: China's New Sexual Revolution

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