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PacNet #25B – Australia’s Turn with the Torch: An Illuminating Episode

The Olympic torch relay ran relatively smoothly through Canberra, Australia. Aside from a handful of scuffles, violent clashes between thousands of Chinese students and pro-Tibetan protesters did not occur. Yet the torch’s journey ‘down under’ was highly illuminating. It revealed much about the nature of Chinese power and patriotism, relations between China and the West (including Australia), and approaches for dealing with an increasingly powerful China.

Most fascinating about this leg of the torch relay was the highly coordinated response of Australia’s Chinese community. Approximately 10,000 Chinese students poured into Canberra to “protect” the Sheng Huo (sacred flame). As many as 100 buses were hired to bring them from around Australia. They arrived in the early hours of a chilly Canberra morning determined to seize pre-determined positions ahead of pro-Tibetan counterparts. All had Chinese flags, some as large as 1.5 sq. meters and many imported from the mainland after Australian suppliers sold out.