by RAY FLEMING

WHEN Mao Tse Tung was asked what he thought about the French Revolution he replied that it was too early to say. I know it's an old joke but a lot of truth lies behind it and those who hasten to criticise the Chinese for failing to achieve a great leap forward in human rights in time for the Beijing Olympics should, I think, temper their criticism. China is not America or Europe and despite its impressive industrial progress it is still in many ways a backward nation. Those who applauded the decision to give Beijing the 2008 Olympics did so because they thought it would provide a stepping stone for China's progress towards a more modern society. In an interview yesterday Britain's Olympics minister Tessa Jowell said that she thought that UK media had been too interested in finding negative stories about China and its Olympics, and I think she is right. Of course there are things that shock by their insensitivity and apparent stupidity; the Chinese bureaucracy must be just about the most hidebound in the world, perhaps because it has so little experience of the world.

But, on the other hand, a huge sporting event has been organised to international standards and has passed off, with just a day to go, without any serious incident. Tomorrow's Closing Ceremony will doubtless impress as much as the stunning Opening event. China is now a full member of the Olympic community and everything must be done to build on that achievement.

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