Our Olympic View “Made in China”

February 3, 2009

Long after the fire from the Olympic Cauldron is extinguished, the lingering question will remain-how are we to perceive the Beijing Olympics taking place in one of the most oppressive regimes in the world?
With the main theme of the Opening Ceremonies being “peace” and “harmony,” it seems that the Chinese government is na’ve enough to believe the world is as uninformed as their citizens. To China, the Olympics became a way for the government to release their propaganda on a worldwide platform.

The first people targeted were those who stood in the way of China portraying itself as a pleasant and peaceful society. China promised to give journalists “complete freedom to report.” However, China blocked all blogs, news or Web sites the did not agree with it politically.

Just in the past year, China arrested thousands of petitioners and reformists. Any pro-Tibetan protesters, however mild, were detained and jailed. The Chinese Government seemed to believe it could get away with this sort of oppressive behavior. The media and other world leaders have let China know their actions were not to be tolerated-up to a point.

That point is where moral obligations end and monetary interests begin. Things get complicated when governments and media find themselves in the awkward position of criticizing a country with so many Western investments. NBC paid nearly $900 million for the rights to broadcast the games. No one with that much invested is going to ruffle feathers. To be fair, NBC did use its morning news show Today to highlight concerns over China’s stained civil rights history. These stories were rare compared to the broadcasts from U.S. soil.

President Bush gave criticism in regard to China’s human rights violations, but not in China; it was in Thailand.
“America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists,” President Bush said to a warm crowd in Bangkok.

However, this speech was given days before Bush boarded a plane to enjoy the Olympics himself. Kind of like speaking out against your neighbor’s domestic violence issues on their front lawn before going inside to have dinner with them.

Sophie Richardson, the director for Human Rights Watch, said, “The leadership in Beijing will almost certainly find his comments irritating or objectionable, but they will clearly understand that the United States will not impose any real consequences if they do not make progress on human rights.”

She’s right. China knows that the ball is in its court. Like NBC, America has plenty of financial interest in China-$504 billion to be exact in treasury securities. That debt at any moment could be thrown out on the open market, leaving the U.S. economy in shambles. That is something no world leader, regardless of moral obligations, will risk.

Bush was probably wise to be diplomatic. We are severely dependent on China. It is sad though that our financial troubles trump our ability to truly put pressure on China.

China has essentially gotten away with brutally oppressing its people and the people of Tibet. China has strong economic ties with both Sudan and Iran. Some have even suggested that totalitarian China resembles the Germany that hosted the 1936 games.

For now it seems that after centuries of practice, when it comes to getting away with oppression and dishonesty, China deserve a gold medal.

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