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Sol Sanders Archive
Monday, May 14, 2007

Time to use the Olympics against Beijing’s excesses

China’s Communist mafia — exploiting Washington’s preoccupation with Iraq, the charade in Congress beginning an unprecedentedly long presidential campaign, and the fecklessness of the U.S.’ European allies — is running amok.

It is endangering the international payments system with its refusal to liberalize its currency, amassing ridiculously large reserves it cannot use because of the fragility of its own corrupt and jerrybuilt banking and financial system. It is distorting the critical world oil markets by further empowering rogue regimes in Sudan and Venezuela, with no real contribution to its own increasing vulnerability to imported fuel now guaranteed by the U.S. fleet guarding chokepoints at Hormuz, Suez, Aden, Malacca, the Lombok Strait — and the Strait of Taiwan. It continues to permit commercial piracy on an unprecedented scale, cutting its own nose to spite its face by reducing initiative for research and development. It imperils world health in an era of massive communication and increased vulnerability to pandemics by refusing honest cooperation with international health organizations. Its repression of all dissidence inside and outside the ideologically-bereft ruling junta leading to almost daily clashes with growing numbers of its own citizens while it violates all the norms of behavior, including elaborate efforts to muzzle the new media [with the help of avaricious American entrepreneurs].

Unfortunately, as in this latter case, the greed and mechanics of globalization are also making China warp and weft of the international economy. If and when these policies bring on — as they almost inevitably will — a crash, increasingly the U.S. and other modern states will also have to pay for the consequences.

What to do?

The State Department, having captured Secretary Condoleezza Rice, as always obsessed with its preoccupation for negotiation whatever the consequences, is calling for “engagement”, quiet diplomacy, etc., etc. It is painful and embarrassing to watch someone as astute and experienced as John Negroponte grasping at straws before a House Committee for evidence of “progress” in the Washington-Beijing relationship. [“…U.S. policy is to encourage China to act as a responsible and stabilizing influence in international affairs. This policy has yielded substantial dividends….]

Negroponte and others have argued China’s role in setting up the six power talks to block North Korea’s efforts toward nuclear armaments and missile proliferation has been critical. Yet the fact is talks are mired down in negotiations which have not impeded Pyongyang’s efforts — nor, in fact, given any real assurance Dictator Kim Il Jong and his wretched followers will not continue to see nuclear warheads as their only blackmail ammunition to perpetuate a bankrupt regime.

The diplomatists have even entrapped our military: the new commander at Pearl Harbor Admiral Timothy Keating, apparently thinking it is the essence of international tact, says, “An anti-satellite test is not necessarily a clear indication of a desire for peaceful utilization of space. It is a confusing signal shall we say for a country who desires, in China's words, a peaceful rise.” Confusing? Keating said this after an obviously fruitless meeting with the loud-mouthed Chinese General Guo Boxiong who once threatened publicly to burn U.S. Pacific cities with nuclear missiles were Washington to intervene to protect Taiwan from a Beijing military takeover.

The case has been made for years by many well meaning academics and politicians any tough line against Beijing risks the possibility of a self-fulfilling prophecy, that is, creating an enemy where none has existed. But an escalating Chinese military buildup despite its role as a huge, developing and useful economic partner in the region as well as the world, belies this interpretation. Beijing has no regional enemies beyond those it is in the process of creating through its aggressive posturing.

The China threat to American security may be a long way off. But as history has proved so often in the not so distant past, Western democracies tend to miscalculate that timeline, and something must be done now to head off growing Chinese exploitation of the vulnerabilities of the world system.

Indeed, security arrangements are being beefed up the area with Japan as a keystone. A steady drone of complaints comes out of the U.S. Treasury, the IMF, and from the EU about the economic issues. There is some reporting in the media of the more egregious human rights violations. But all this to little avail.

Yet there may be a new weapon in the equation. Beijing strategists, amateurish as they appear to be, may have an Achilles heel: the forthcoming Beijing Olympics.

Recent talk — coming for the most part from the earlier victims of Chinese aggression, the Tibetans, the Falung Gong sect, and the more vociferous professional human rights lobby, and unsuccessful French presidential candidate Francois Bayrou — of a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games has elicited, significantly, an instantaneous defensive response.

China’s principal propaganda organ, People’s Daily, said: “… the attempts of some people to boycott the Beijing Olympic Games as a protest against its policy on the Darfur issue are doomed to fail.

“People who harbor such attempts are ‘either ignorant or ill-natured’, Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun told a briefing Wednesday afternoon, a day after he concluded a four-day visit to Sudan as special envoy of the Chinese government.

"These people's remarks run against the spirit of the Olympics and the universally accepted principle of non-politicalization of sport, and their attempts challenge the will of the people in the world," he said, adding he believes the Games will be a great success next year.”

But the epithet “Genocidal Games” is growing, and taking on media chic in Hollywood and elsewhere.

Although the Olympics are a marginal economic consideration for Beijing — even though they have led to a massive and often brutally bulldozing overhaul of the capital itself — they constitute an important political goal of the regime.

The Olympics have been seen as the crowning achievement of “a rising China”, removing all stigma of a regime which has yet to turn its back officially, apologize, or attempt to atone for the horrendous atrocities of its Maoist origins and the 1989 massacre of students and workers at Tien An Mien [which cynically using Japanese war crimes of World War II propaganda as a negotiating ploy].

Just as the XVIII Olympics in Tokyo in 1964, marked the end of the visible remnants of World War II and the American occupation and introduced a new era of Japanese life, the Beijing Olympics had been seen as such a milestone, both by the leadership and a hopeful public. Any effort to halt or discredit the games now, would be an enormous blow for the prestige and morale of the leaders of the Chinese kleptocracy.

Furthermore, there is a frightening precedent for Beijing: the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow games after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan did not halt them. But they reduced their international significance and played a role in the unraveling and implosion of the Soviet regime.

Even a massive private campaign to boycott the games — without official U.S. government backing — but with widespread popular support could have a profound effect, perhaps forcing modification of some of Beijing’s policies. That’s clear to Beijing if not yet in the West.

Sol W. Sanders, (, is an Asian specialist with more than 25 years in the region, and a former correspondent for Business Week, U.S. News & World Report and United Press International. He writes weekly for World and

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