Holy Willie and the China Olympic Boycott
The upcoming Chinese Olympics made writing about China even more difficult. My book comes out in November and I don’t want to date it so I had to skirt the subject. I do talk about human rights and try to do so somewhat objectively, although I suspect it probably isn’t to hard to tell where I stand.
Since I can’t address the Olympics and the storm surrounding it directly in my book, I’ll do so here.
Personally, I think China is reaping what it has sewed. The government seems to do whatever it wants to preserve its own power and grow its own economy while ignoring the suffering it inflicts on its own people and that of others around the world. Not that other governments haven’t done or do such things; it’s just that China seems to be the best at it right now: Tibet. Darfur. Labor camps. No wikipedia, etc.
I don’t mind the torch protests as long as nobody gets hurts. I don’t mind political leaders boycotting the games, but as the issue becomes more heated, I hope the athletes won’t become more pressured to follow suit. The Olympics represents the place where athletes showcase their hard work, training, and abilities. The games only come around every four years and to deny them of their chance to shine would be a great shame.
In Edinburgh’s The Scotsman, Allan Massie does a great job of putting all of this in perspective. The editorial is titled:
We don’t boycott their clothes, so why boycott their Olympics?
And goes on to write:
Anyone who regularly buys clothes from Tesco or Gap or other stores which stock Chinese goods is in no position to call on our athletes to boycott the Beijing Games or even to make some sort of public protest.
As consumers, we are customers of the Chinese regime, and even its accomplices. To pretend otherwise is hypocrisy, something which, as heirs of Holy Willie, we Scots usually do rather well.
I had to Wikipedia Holy Willie (something I couldn’t have done in China). He was a church elder who asked God for forgiveness while at the same time asking God to smite all of the other sinners. I suspect a bake sale and ExLax may have been involved.
I like the tone of that article. I’ve heard the China quandary referred to as an “inconvenient truth.”
Nobody is happy with all of the party’s policies, and practices. But they have the world so hooked on their exports of everyday items, that it’s difficult to imagine life without them.
I agree Kent. It’s easy to take the verbal moral high ground, but it’s not easy finding shoes or toys NOT made in China.
There is no cut and dry. China is a beautiful country, with a warm and hospitable people. I felt good supporting small family restaurants. They treated me like I was a guest in their home, (quite often it was their home).
I don’t feel quite as good supporting China’s factories, as I know very little of my consumer dollar is going to the people who need it most.
On the other hand, a minute portion of the money I spent on my (made in China) jacket made it back to the migrant worker who left his home to find work and support his family.
On yet another hand, a larger portion of my consumer dollar ends up in the hands of a government who’s practices I’d rather not support.
So what’s the answer?
The answer is to go back in time 15 years ago before China made everything we use today and put the screws to them. Short of that, I have no idea. It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out. You’re right, the Chinese people are great, but the government scares the crap out of me.
The international community needs to start putting some type of pressure on China to change some of their practices. Hopefully, the focus the Olympics puts on China will result in this.
one interesting point that is starting to come out in the Western press: the Maindland’s gov benefits hugely from all this t0rch/b0ycott fiasco, in the sense that it causes the people to rally around the Party.
Mainlanders do personal identity and their relationship to their national leaders different than we do. Here’s the key: When *foreigners* criticize the Mainland’s *g0vernment*, the *people* feel it as a direct criticism of them, their race, and their identity. At least in the cities. They have been inoculated against that kind of criticism from foreigners (lots of bad history, well-managed by the Party). Any anger the people have against the way things are domestically (and there is quite a bit) is directed a local officials, not the central leadership. The West, hypocritical as it is, is doing the China’s leadership a favour with all these protests.
If the Games are a disaster, then the leadership will have trouble (they’ll have to produce some high level scapegoats). But if the Games are good and foreigners are just poor guests, then it just helps solidify the ‘Mandate of Heaven’ currently enjoyed by the Mainland leadership. I think most people support the current administration.
Thanks for the inside info Joel. I’m sure the people do rally around the government since the government filters the accounts of the protests to them.
How are the torch protests being reported?
The perfect answer to your question: http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20080410_1.htm
And while your “wikipedia” point was a side point of this blog post, I thought I should mention that wikipedia is now accessible in China, as of the last month or so. We’ll see how long it stays that way, but I think it’s meant to be long-term.
See…things are changing so rapidly here, that it’s hard NOT to date yourself writing almost anything about China!
Jessica, thanks for the link. Very poignant images and the perfect answer to my question. I haven’t heard anything in the media in US that the events might actually consolidate the people around the party. Maybe the whole free media thing is overrated. In China, in the US, it’s impossible either place to get the whole story.
I’ve heard that angle from Western media, but not the mainstream headline kind, only the ‘only people with a special interest in China will read this’ kind.
Both these (from the IHT & TIME) shed some important light on how all this t0rch/Tea-bett ruckus appears to the average Mainlander. Right or wrong, the West is failing to communicate.