China, Olympics & Politics – Opinions

Written by  //  April 11, 2008  //  Africa, China, Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Olympics  //  No comments

April 11
Gwynne Dyer: Controversial flame has never burned brightly
(New Zealand Herald) What’s actually colliding here are two irreconcilable views of the world. For almost all Chinese, the turmoil in Tibet is a threat to national unity.

We were struck by the contrast of the two opinion pieces excerpted below (there will assuredly be many more) and, while we sympathize with Kelly McParland’s tough-love (actually, not much love) attitude, we feel strongly that the arguments presented by Philip Bowring are too logical to resist. We are particularly struck by the phrase Nationalism is more often aroused by setbacks than success. However, he does not offer any solutions other than an implicit suggestion that the rest of the world cool the criticism – at which point do we not move closer to the controversy around the Berlin Olympics of 1936 when “The United States considered boycotting the Olympic games, since participating in the festivity might be considered as support for the Nazi Germany regime and its Anti-Semitic policies. However, others argued that the Olympic Games should not be a reflection of political views but strictly a contest of the greatest athletes.”
We do not pretend to have the answers and we worry about the consequences for the world, along with the dissidents of Tibet, of provoking precisely those actions we most deplore.
8 April 2008
Beware an angry China
By Philip Bowring
(IHT) HONG KONG: Tibetans have a strong case against Beijing. But mixing it in with the Olympics and Darfur is a red rag to a wounded young bull.
Nationalism is more often aroused by setbacks than success, so the Tibet problems and the possible threats to a triumphal Olympics are stirring it in China.
On the horizon is the possibility that these will combine with high inflation, stagnating exports and trade tensions with the United States to create a perfect nationalistic storm.
The Chinese leadership faces a difficult balancing act.
As its legitimacy is now based on national achievement, not communist ideology, it must appear in step with popular feeling. Yet stability at home and good relations abroad require keeping nationalist emotions in check. The paranoia about evil foreign designs that thrived under Mao and was discarded by Deng Xiaoping is still close to the surface.
7 April 2008
China, IOC pay the price of Olympic hubris
Kelly McParland National Post
The International Olympic Committee is learning what happens when you play make-believe in awarding the Summer Games.
Seven years ago the committee awarded the games to Beijing, wanting to believe it would turn out to be a good idea. The IOC had to hope the communist government would continue its economic reforms, vastly improving living conditions for millions of Chinese. It had to hope those reforms would leach into other areas of life: some easing in the persecution of religious observance, some progress in ending the comprehensive control of free speech and communication; some reduction in the repression of anyone with political views that differ from the government’s; perhaps even a softening of the government’s penchant for rounding up opponents and slapping them in jail, and for solving crime problems with the help of a bullet to the head.
There were plenty of other areas in which advances were possible as well. Pollution, for example: Beijing is great at pious proclamations of its devotion to environmental improvement, while putting up coal-burning power plants as fast as they can be assembled. Or foreign affairs: if not for support from Beijing, Sudan’s government would find it harder to promote murder in Darfur, and Robert Mugabe might find it a bit more difficult to beat his own people into submission.
It was perhaps understandable that the IOC saw itself as offering a carrot that could be used to lure China’s government into something resembling progress on a whole range of issues. Understandable, perhaps, but foolish. China’s communists made clear in just how little progress they were willing to entertain when it came to human freedoms. Economic advances are one thing; political or individual rights are another. Nothing has changed since [Tiananmen Square in 1989], other, perhaps, than Beijing’s ability to use its growing financial clout to temper criticism from other governments.
Someone has to let the communists know there’s a real price to pay for brutality. Global humiliation is as good a means as any.
April 1
Interesting, piece by Brenda O’Neill, but about as simplistic as the author accuses the other side of being … at least the western colonial powers used local labour, unlike the Chinese who ship in their own people to work on capital projects.
Certainly one cannot attribute the genocide in Darfur solely to the Chinese, but it would be helpful if they would join with everyone else in trying to stop it, rather than selling Sudan arms that only help to prolong the agony. We also note criticism from Africans (Kenya, Zimbabwe) of the flooding of their markets with shoddy goods from China.

The Chinese burden?
(The Guardian) Attacks on China’s role in Africa are driven by a desire to preserve the continent as a playground for western do-gooders
As the Beijing Olympics approach, a sweeping left/right consensus has emerged in the west: that China’s interventions in Africa are deeply problematic. Western officials, commentators and activists accuse China of “raping” Africa, plundering its resources, creating even greater inequalities between rich and poor, and cosying up to genocidal maniacs.

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