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Welcome to Beijing--please rate our service

Posted by Scott LaPierre  July 31, 2008 04:35 AM

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Greetings from Beijing, where I will be shooting video and taking the occasional photo for the Globe and Boston.com during the next few weeks.

Good news to report for anyone headed to China to watch or cover the games: if you're properly credentialed or visa'd, getting into China is a breeze. Which might not sound like breaking news, but China has a pretty serious reputation for bureaucracy (especially for journalists, especially at airports and border crossings). AND, prior to departure I had neglected to fill out an Equipment Declaration Form (in triplicate), meaning I had not received the REQUIRED Equipment Confirmation Letter, and so I was mentally preparing, the entire 17 hour flight, to do a whole lot of repentant paperwork and question-answering under a naked lightbulb upon arrival.

Not so. From the moment I stepped off the plane into the massive new (and new-smelling) Beijing Capital International Airport, I felt like one of the first customers at a newly opened restaurant that is striving for a high star ranking. In the mostly empty arrivals lounge, college-aged Olympics staff snapped to attention and stuffed helpful pamphlets into my hands. Lines moved quickly. A super-friendly immigration officer could hardly wait to stamp her approval into my passport, and a machine in front of her desk (pictured above) invited me to rate her service (I abstained). And, at customs, it turned out that a simple explanation for why I had not filed the dreaded Equipment Declaration Form (in triplicate) was an acceptable cover story for why I could not present a signed and stamped Equipment Confirmation Letter. An Olympics staffer was summoned, and they helped me handwrite all the appropriate forms (in triplicate) on the spot.

From a little reading, I see that a lot of this customer-service approach to immigration is newish, maybe part of China's Olympics reinvention of itself. But I guess it says something about customer service, because leaving the airport--hours earlier than I had anticipated--I found myself buying into Beijing International's cheesy slogan a little: "Harmonious Airport, Dreams start here."

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Beijing Capital International Airport, as well as almost every other square foot of Beijing, is festooned with Olympics banners, posters, and displays.

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8 comments so far...
  1. Great story. I hope that the world will move beyond complete negative criticism of China, and see China for what really it is...a complex, modernizing, sometimes crazy, sometimes wierdly sensible, but always friendly and hospitable developing country that is trying very hard to put its best foot forward in hosting the Games. I am so sick of all those who bash China simply because it seems "cool" to do so. Come on, they make it sound like Darfur, global warming, the death of polar bears and even the general collapse of the world economy is China's fault ALONE!!!!! The world's problems are a lot bigger than just China, but someone somewhere has decided to blame everything on China so that they can feel better about their own miserable lot. I am so sick of this non-sense. And those Tibetniks...most can't even find Lhasa on the world map. Shut your mouth, stop complaining, enjoy the Olympics and leave China alone!

    Posted by Mike July 31, 08 10:22 AM
  1. Finally something positive about China. I agree with Mike that I am sick of reporters and bloggers complaining about China because of Tibet. I just came back from China and I am glad to see it get some good news for once. Just wish I was still there for the games.

    Posted by Vincent July 31, 08 11:03 AM
  1. Olympics is changing the internal and external view of China. Personal experience of travling in China is a better way to learn China than just making statements based on what you read and heard.

    Posted by ZLI July 31, 08 12:35 PM
  1. Heading over on August 19 for a year-- keep the stories coming, great insights,Thank You

    Posted by rick July 31, 08 12:41 PM
  1. Great information in your story. Most media coverage is so biased that it's refreshing to see someone cover China from a less biased light. Thank you.

    Posted by Tony July 31, 08 12:45 PM
  1. I love the picture of the customer satisfaction device. Every business should have one of these.

    Posted by Erik July 31, 08 02:09 PM
  1. People who raise children are exactly the same everywhere in the world. They want the best for their children. Each and every country has it's problems (just like all human beings), everyone has history they can't correct .ISN'T THAT RIGHT U.S.A.?

    I hope it goes off without a hitch. This world needs some good news.

    Posted by Kevin July 31, 08 03:46 PM
  1. Exactly. The world need more good news .
    Every country need to improve itself, so does China.
    Whatever good or bad, it's a process to "grow up".
    Only if it has the ability to get over the difficulties, it can get a higher level.

    Posted by Julia.Wang August 16, 08 04:58 AM
 

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