Friday, April 11, 2008

China and the Olympics: Don't Rise to the Bait!

The Olympic Torch has passed through San Francisco, despite attempts to extinguish it, and I am glad it finished its North American journey safely. No one was interested in talking about the Olympics in December of 2006, when I raised the issue of freedom of speech for reporters in China for the Olympics. That was the time to pursue a dialogue about some very troubling developments, but no one cared. Suddenly, nearly a year and a half later, my inbox is full of mail about the Olympics and China. There is no shortage of viewpoint or advocacy. Most writers make their point--and well--and there is great diversity of opinion. For my nickel, the time for debate on China’s hosting of the Olympics has long passed. It is not exactly like the news that China is hosting the Olympics is a surprise.

The games themselves have their own separate governance, theoretically separate from national governments. Underlying it all is the idealistic Olympian concept of putting politics aside, and having a "truce" for the sake of citizens from all over the world coming together for the games. When global travel was a rarity, it was also thought that the mere experience of citizens of one country meeting citizens of another country in an atmosphere of friendship would have a salutary effect on the cause of peace between nations. President Eisenhower himself--no stranger to war, politics, or international relations--was a great advocate of people-to-people friendship efforts.

There are severe problems with human rights in China. This is nothing new, and while troubling and continuing, their existence is no surprise either. It seems to me to be a very short-sighted response to suddenly douse the Olympic flame, raise the continuing issue of Tibet to fever pitch, and attempt to inject acrimony between nations where none existed before. When you think about it, this is a clear case of “Let’s you and him fight.” The real question is: "Whose interest does this serve?" Political divisiveness is easy to create, aggravate, and amplify. Let’s not go for the bait.

I took the picture, above, in San Francisco's Chinatown about a year ago. While I didn't take the time to get a good picture, I really like the message.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the real reason there is such seeming contention around the issue of whether to protest/boycott or not is twofold: 1) the Torch came to U.S. soil, heightening everyone's attention to the close proximity of the Games, and 2) the nature of the despicable regime that will be hosting the summer Games, and its ongoing attempt to use them for propaganda purposes. For example, yesterday Beijing (and the IOC) threatened anyone who chose to freely express opposition to China's Tibet policy, China's limitation on free speech, etc. When the host country itself (along with the complicity of the IOC) advocates for propaganda purposes, I think it is much harder to view this particular installment of the Olympic Games in the idealistic view which historically has been applied to most of the modern era Games (a view I share in most circumstances, except for when the host country is such an oppressive, communist regime). JK

Apr 11, 2008, 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Publia said...

But why is this suddenly so pressing? The only reason is that some group or country needed time to build a protest effort. Think about what country or group would benefit from trouble between the United States and China, and you have your answer. Don't fall for the bait. The human rights violations in China are continuing, and people who care about the Olympics and China should have spoken out sooner about the location of the games. I wonder if when the games are over, all the people who are concerned will forget the cause and be moving on to the next trend.

Apr 11, 2008, 12:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Opposition to the selection of Beijing didn't just suddenly spring up last week; it's been going on for a few years. And the larger picture of the economic impact China is having on the U.S. economy makes the issue pressing. Some politicians and many voters have expressed alarm and dismay at the huge amount of Chinese imports coming to this country, the dangerous food and toy products, etc. All this is not new, nor is opposition to the selection of a despotic regime. There is a very real difference between holding the Olympics in Beijing and holding them in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The International Olympic Charter, most recently published by the IOC in July 2007 contains several principles, among which:

2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man,
with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.

There is no evidence that China has any interest in promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.


4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising
sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual
understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The organisation, administration
and management of sport must be controlled by independent sports organisations.

China is not usually considered to be a country concerned with human rights or dignity.


5. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion,
politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

On multiple levels, China itself fails the test detailed in point 5 above.

6. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and
recognition by the IOC.

China cannot comply with the Olympic Charter; its recognition by the IOC, and its unfortunate selection to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, speaks volumes about the IOC failing its own Charter.

And just as the heinous actions China takes against its citizens have a lengthy history, so, too, does opposition to those very actions.

And did I forget to mention China is a Communist nation? It used to be that people (admittedly, not most Democrats) had grave concerns about Communism. Maybe it's okay to be Communist after all, and it's okay to kill people in the streets because they wish to freely express their opinions, and maybe it's okay to destroy an entire culture's heritage, and maybe it's okay to abort female babies because they're not desirable in (this particular) Communist society.

No thanks. I don't think any of those things are okay, and I don't believe China itself lives up to the Olympic ideal.

Let's just have the Olympics go back to Greece permanently, and seriously apply the Olympic Principles. JK

Apr 11, 2008, 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Publia said...

This issue is no more pressing today than it was 18 months ago when the media guidelines were released, and no more pressing today than it has been for a very long time.

Suddenly, everyone is whipped into a frenzy. Who benefits from a breach between the United States and China? Think about it.

Keep speaking out in the cause of human rights.

Apr 11, 2008, 2:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So in your estimation, who DOES benefit from a breach between China and the U.S.? JK

Apr 11, 2008, 2:35:00 PM  
Blogger Publia said...

It could be any number of countries or groups. Russia would be a likely suspect, but you can't count out South America, India, or groups seeking to oust the US from Iraq.

Globally, the left is split on this one. Then, again, anyone seeking harm to America might be motivated, seeing the vast number of consumer goods that come from China and have raised the standard of living in the US for all, but in particular the poor. Could it be an anti-Walmart group? Probably not. I don't know, and if I did I would not be quiet about it. To my way of thinking, this is a huge propaganda coup by someone, just not quite sure who.

Global human rights activists--many of them highly political--could be a piece of the equation. Sorry I can't give you a better answer than that, but I think my first guess is pretty good.

Apr 11, 2008, 4:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if it is Russia, then I guess we know who got us this far, don't we? Bush "looked into [Putin's] eyes" and got a sense of his soul. I think many people would agree Putin ultimately was a step (or several of them) backwards in the move toward democracy in the former Soviet Union. And renewing Most Favored Nation trading status with China was also supported by the current administration. Some may be comfortable coddling dictators, but I'm not.

It used to be that the vast majority of Republicans could agree that stopping the spread of communism and, in fact, decreasing its influence, was a worthwhile effort. That idea now seems to have less resonance in the GOP, and certainly none in the Democratic Party.

As for the American consumer, if he/she desires cheap imports from China (cheap both in price and quality, but perhaps expensive in safety), then the consumer should also draw an absolute direct line connecting that fact with American job losses and the disappearance of U.S. manufacturing. As Joseph Stalin once famously said: "When we hang the capitalists, they will sell us the rope we use." Prescient, even if coming from a thug like Stalin.

China is a serious threat to the U.S. if not handled properly. Already, several countries that were formerly under the Soviet Union's dominion have taken steps to boycott the opening ceremonies. And considering that China's government over the last 100 years has killed many times more the number of its citizens than the Soviet Union did in the last century, I am very uncomfortable in doing anything that rewards thugs.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd rather stand on principle in favor of freedom and liberty, and against communism and oppression, instead of kowtowing (if you'll pardon the expression) to murderous thugs.

I think these articles make some very good points:


And I really don't think one has to be of the Left to hold the opinions expressed in my posts. I just wish more Republicans shared these they used to. But then again, the GOP doesn't resemble itself much these days anyway, so perhaps I shouldn't be terribly surprised. JK

Apr 11, 2008, 5:51:00 PM  

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