I am so pleased that our freedom loving president has decided to attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Beijing, China. I’m sure he is relieved that he doesn’t have to pretend to care about those wild ass Tibetan monks and nuns who just a short while ago were being slaughtered in the streets of Lhasa. After all, if CNN isn’t paying attention, why should he?
We are, after all, into our “Let’s not be beastly to the Chinese” mode this month – despite Beijing’s utter refusal to seriously assist the world in stopping the slaughter in Darfur where they hold sway with the government and continue to supply them arms. The same could be said for most hot spots in the world today where China has chosen – shall we say – a more “pragmatic” approach to international diplomacy. In other words, if the solution would harm Chinese economic interests, better to be a Sabot than pragmatist.
From Iran, to the Congo, to Burma – where western countries tried unsuccessfully to enter and alleviate the horrific suffering caused by the typhoon that hit Burma on May 2 – China has seen fit to block, impede, ignore, and otherwise discombobulate efforts to resolve these problems and protect the peace or save lives.
This is the reality of living with a China that is beginning to flex its muscles on the world stage. Quiescent for 600 years, China is back with a vengeance and while cooperating in a very limited sphere of priorities, the Dragon prefers to go its own way. It is procuring oil deals in the Middle East, trade deals in South America, and beginning to dominate its neighbors in East Asia economically.
And part of this muscle flexing – a very large psychological part – is hosting the Summer Olympics. As much a confidence booster for its own people as it is a showcase for foreigners (who they still see as barbarians), the Games are an announcement that China is back and that she is about to start kicking butt and take names in the international arena. The powers that be on the International Olympic Committee who handed the Chinese this propaganda coup – fabulously wealthy, old monied European dilettantes and obscure royalty – are playing with forces they neither know nor care little about. The Chinese government dangled billions in front of their eyes and that was enough. To hell with human rights said the IOC lickspittles.
True to form, the Chinese recently cracked down on Tibetans who have a slightly different idea about who should be running their country and it does not include the Chinese army and paramilitary units who routinely whack people they consider troublemakers. The death toll from the riots during last March’s uprising was around 55 we are told. What was never announced were the number of people – monks included – dragged out of their houses in the middle of the night and simply “disappeared” in the old fashioned Stalinist tradition. Word trickled out that entire monasteries were emptied and the monks beaten and shot. Some of the more prominent human rights activists are under house arrest or in some Tibetan dungeon somewhere.
But since the New York Times, the Washington Post, and even Keith Olbermann seems to have mislaid their outrage over this blatant violation of common decency and the UN Charter on Human Rights, our brave Sir President feels it now safe to kow-tow to the Chinese and pretend as if “Tibet” is just a place name on a map:
US President George W Bush will attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, the White House says.
Human rights groups and opposition politicians including presidential hopeful Barack Obama had urged Mr Bush to consider boycotting the ceremony.
Beijing’s rights record has come under intense scrutiny since Tibetan protests were suppressed in March.
Troops used force to quell the biggest anti-China demonstrations in Tibetan communities for two decades.
Beijing says rioters killed about 20 people in the unrest, but exiled Tibetan groups accuse security forces of killing scores of protesters.
Even Obama supports a boycott of the opening ceremonies – today. Where he might come down tomorrow on the subject is a different kettle of fish. But for the moment, the messiah is four square in favor of making this small, yet telling statement about what America thinks of the Chinese bully boys cracking down on Tibetans.
But not our George. His compassionate conservative answer to critics?
“He believes he’s going to China to support first and foremost our athletes. He sees this as a sporting competition,” she said.
How touching. Does this make world leaders who intend to boycott the ceremonies hard hearted monsters who don’t support their nation’s athletes?
Some world leaders are missing the 8 August opening ceremony.
Germany’s Angela Merkel is not attending the Olympics. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will be in Beijing for the closing ceremony only.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy says his attendance depends on progress in dialogue between Beijing and the Tibetan government-in-exile.
Those talks are going about as well as can be expected – which is to say not well at all. This probably means that Sarkozy will join Brown and Merkel in insulting their athletes by missing the opening of the games.
There are those, such as James Joyner, who don’t care much one way or the other:
I don’t feel strongly either way about this issue. My preference would have been not to award China the Olympics, given not only their abysmal human rights record but also the ridiculous level of pollution in Beijing which puts the health of the athletes in danger. Boycotting the opening ceremonies would embarrass the Chinese government and send a message, I suppose, although it would likely just increase their intransigence and make them less cooperative.
What strikes me as interesting in all this is that Bush has rather clearly, in his second term, become much more cognizant that symbolic gestures and rhetoric have an impact beyond the domestic audience. A boycott would likely play well at home, since both the Left and the Right are united in their distaste for the PRC government, albeit for different reasons. But China is the key player in Asia and their cooperation is essential in addressing many issues of strategic concern to the United States in that region. Thinking through the consequences of thumbing our noses at them, therefore, is important.
Joyner’s assessment of the problem of “thumbing our noses” at the Chinese is dubious in my mind. We are, after all, talking about a small gesture that if the Chinese do indeed get their nose all bent out of shape because of it, only prove themselves to be unworthy of any approbation for having “come so far” as a nation. His analysis also fails to assess the damage caused by our not standing up for human rights and Tibet.
If the Chinese are so paranoid and sensitive about anything marring their precious games (they murdered hundreds of thousands of cats and dogs to “clean up” Beijing), perhaps they should address the reality of Tibet rather than trying to sweep it under the rug – something Joyner inadvertently is encouraging them to do. Bush or no Bush, the news nets are not going to ignore Tibet or the boycott by the Big Three in Europe. Ergo, Bush will be seen as the weak sister in the face of Chinese pressure to conform, to get with the program, and celebrate China’s coming out party.
A small thing? I think not. The symbolism of Bush attending the opening ceremonies will not help us in the slightest despite Jim’s hopeful outlook and as the only major western leader in attendance will give unwanted legitimacy to a government whose own people are suffering under a Communist tyranny. I wonder what the Chinese dissidents – those few not in jail at the moment – are thinking about Bush’s decision?
The fact is, because Tibet and Chinese domestic politics is largely ignored at the moment by the press, Bush feels safe in making his announcement. Out of sight and out of mind.
And for the Tibetans, out of luck as well.