It’s simply inconceivable that poking a stick in Beijing’s eye will cause them to suddenly become a Jeffersonian democracy, free Tibet, or, indeed, do anything that we want them to do.
China’s domestic human rights record is abysmal, to be sure, but it’s much better than it was a generation ago. They’ve gradually implemented market reforms which, naturally, required loosening the reins a bit. We’re far better off, then, if our goal is to make life better for the average Chinese, to continue to engage them as trading partners and as a regional great power, using the carrots of access to the world market and participation in major international regimes like WTO rather than the dull sticks of childish publicity stunts.
This is a valid point, but I’ve got to wonder what it is, exactly, that the Chinese have done, other than selling us a ton of cheap crap, that should endear them to us.
I’m not one of those who think that President Bush should forbid American athletes from attending the Beijing Olympics. Frankly, I don’t think that any President has the authority to do such a thing.
At the same time, though, I don’t think that we have to give our moral sanction to a regime that, notwithstanding the fact that it likes the money that international trade brings in, continues to repress it’s citizens not only in Tibet but in other regions of China as well.
That’s why some kind of official denunciation of China’s refusal to live up to the conditions that the International Olympic Committee set when it awarded them the Olympics is appropriate. And the most symbolic way to do that is for the President of the United States to decline an appearance at the opening ceremonies. To do otherwise, quite frankly, would legitimize not only the brutality in Tibet and Xianxiang, but also the brutality in Tiananmen that the first President Bush chose to ignore back in 1991.
Yes, the Tibetans and other Chinese dissidents are taking advantage of the situation. Frankly, I don’t blame them.
For once, the whole world is watching.