Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Avoiding Politics

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Avoiding Politics

It amazes me whenever anyone argues that the Olympics should not get involved in political issues. The Olympic torch should be respected, and protestors should set aside their differences for the good of the athletes. I'm fine with the idea that we can overcome our differences to compete with each other on a different field. I don't have a problem with respecting the Olympic movement or the torch itself. But let's don't have any illusions that scheduling the Olympics in Beijing is not a political act in and of itself. I don't think the Olympic committee was necessarily aiming to make a political statement by allowing China to host the Olympics, but you can bet China was making one by making the bid. And we're all making one if we go along with China and pretend that we see nothing wrong with its human rights record or its past and current activities in Tibet.

Certainly, it's a complicated situation. Sunday's New York Times has an article that delves into the layers of conflict. By speaking out against China's human rights record, are the protesters forcing China to become even more recalcitrant? Part of the problem is that the West is buying into China without concern over China's policies. In the Times, a China expert from Germany's Council on Foreign Relations spells out the situation:

"The country is economically so attractive and by now so powerful that any measures we take will be met with painful countermeasures," he said. "The Olympics are important to the Chinese, but not as important as Tibet. Sovereignty and stability will always outweigh public relations."

We want to trade with China, and we want to sell into their market. Just because they don't respect the rights of their citizens shouldn't be enough to put us off cheaper goods or higher profits, should it?

I don't think that we're going to be able to avoid the hypocrisy of the Olympic Committee, but we should call it for what it is. The committee has made a huge political statement in vouching for the respectability of China by allowing it to host, but now they're trying to cut off all further political discussion as unseemly or something. The international community should continue to compete in the Olympics, but we can't be expected to leave our principles on the exterior of the stadium.


At 1:23 PM, April 13, 2008, Blogger Stevie T said...

I believe that most of it really does come down to cheaper products for us, the consumers. Higher profits is obviously the true interest of businesses.

There's also the argument though that by engaging China economically, we are opening them up, which will lead to change, presumably towards democracy and freedom. Some politicians use this as their reason for supporting business with China. Of course anyone can use this argument to justify doing business with China, no matter what their true intentions (higher profits, cheaper products or an interest in freedom for the Chinese people).

I wish there were some way of finding out the true intentions of policy makers... such as making them drink truth serum before answering a survey.


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