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Beijing 2008: Good News For China, Bad News For Freedom

by @ 5:54 pm on August 25, 2008. Filed under 2008 Summer Olympics, China, Foreign Affairs

Having pulled off what, unfortunately, appears to have been a pretty successful 29th Olympiad, will the People’s Republic of China now become less responsive to world opinion on human rights issues ?

Having read this article, I think the answer may well be yes:

The 2008 Games seemed likely to go down as a political as well as an athletic victory for China, reinforcing the image of party leaders as adroit managers of the world’s largest nation on a double-step march toward greater prosperity. In the view of the Chinese, the appearance of dozens of foreign leaders during the Games, including President Bush, meant the world had effectively endorsed the Communist Party’s rule, despite its continued political repression.

“The party state was clearly a winner in the eyes of the people,” said David Shambaugh, a George Washington University China specialist who was in Beijing for the Games and who wrote a recently published book on the Chinese Communist Party.

The emphasis on China’s national achievements was intense, responding to guidance from the Central Propaganda Department as well as spontaneous pride. The U.S. lead in the overall medal count was nearly ignored, for instance, in favor of China’s winning tally of gold. In another example of the tone, the headline over a story on the success of Australia’s Matthew Mitcham in diving competition Thursday read: “Mitcham Ruins China’s Clean Sweep in Diving.”

Of course, NBC’s by-all-accounts sycophantic coverage of the games in particular and China in general no doubt added to the success as to the lack of moral courage displayed by world leaders:

“Not a single world leader who attended the Games or members of the International Olympic Committee seized the opportunity to challenge the Chinese government’s behavior in any meaningful way,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch. “Will anyone wonder, after the games are over, why the Chinese government remains intransigent about human rights?”

Rogge, the IOC president, carefully avoided criticizing the Chinese government, for instance, when it emerged that journalists’ Internet access was being restricted, despite assurances to the contrary, and that police were preventing reporters from covering some protests, despite rules stipulating that there should be no obstacles. His most noticeable display of irritation was reserved for Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter whose crowd-pleasing exuberance Rogge felt was out of place.

This is why the Olympic movement is, for the most part, entirely useless. Because, you know, an athlete who celebrates his achievements is far more problematic that a brutal totalitarian dictatorship.

As if that wasn’t enough, it looks like NBC made out like a bandit during the Communist Olympics:

LOS ANGELES/BEIJING (Hollywood Reporter) – NBC Universal smashed yet another historic ratings benchmark: The Beijing Olympics is the most-watched U.S. television event of all time. Through 16 days of coverage, 211 million viewers tuned in to the Olympics on NBC Universal’s broadcast and cable outlets, according to NBC citing Nielsen Media Research.

And what did they learn about the real China ? Absolutely nothing.

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