A few weeks ago, Wuhan, China concurrently hosted the men's and women's versions of the East Asian Cup, a four-team soccer competition. I watched what was essentially the third-place game of the women's tournament, between Japan and China. I said to the kids, "Last month Japan was World Cup runner-up and China didn't get out of the group stage, so Japan should win this game easily." But they didn't win the game easily; for nearly 90 minutes, the game was scoreless, thanks in large measure to the Chinese goalkeeper, Wang Fei.
Who is Wang Fei? She is sort of like Hope Solo, just without the craziness. Anyway, she came up with a number of big saves throughout the game. Japan's superior technical ability, however, won out, and they scored their first goal in the 88th minute.
And here's where China's problems were on display. The team tried hard and Wang had a great game (as seen here). The goal was not a mistake of hers, and although she had been injured a few minutes previously, she had played on. Having put together no offensive threat in the entire game, China was going to lose. But China used it's final substitution of the game to replace Wang with just minutes remaining.
That seemed bush league to me. That seemed like a coach trying to hang the blame on arguably his best player. The team had failed and the team's leader was in a position to assign blame to a subordinate, who was in no position to refuse it. And that is China's problem in microcosm.
I remember a character in the movie Rising Sun talking about how Japan is superior to the U.S. because when something goes wrong in Japan they focus on a correction while in the U.S., they focus on the blame. China is only blame. Right now the economy is failing and everyone responsible is busy finding somebody else to blame. It's short sellers! It's foreign reporters! It's East Turkestan terrorists! It's everyone but the corrupt leaders, the shadow banking system they allow to flourish, and the mountain of government debt they've accumulated through malinvestment. Of course it's not them.
Wang Fei had a great game, and it pissed me off to see her singled out for shame like that. Japan's second goal, scored moments after the substitution, was much more goalkeeper error than the first, as the substitute didn't commit to anything but kind of danced around trying to look busy. Chinese leaders use their positions of superiority to save face for themselves by rolling it off to subordinates. It shows up at my job, in the news, and when I watch the women's national team.