The recent fiasco over the Olympic torch was probably all too avoidable: had China not exacerbated the recent protests in Tibet by, er, kicking protesters' heads in with extreme prejudice, then no one would even be thinking about Tibet. Who remembers now that Steven Spielberg resigned as artisitic adviser to the 2008 Beijing Olympics over Darfur?
But clearly the Chinese authorities feel they have no choice: if they let secessionist movements go unchecked, word spreads and trouble breaks out everywhere. What with rising food prices, and corrupt local cadres seizing villagers' land to build prestige apartments for, in the words of one advert, "cozy nobles", and amazing wealth alongside extraordinary poverty, and apocalyptic weather, it's amazing they have managed to keep a lid on it thus far.
It's enough to make anyone quail at the thought of the Olympics. Happily, today's South China reports that domestic flights in mainland China have just banned people from carrying cigarette lighters on board. Only now they thought of this?