It’s just a little over a week until kickoff of the Beijing Olympics, the biggest sporting event of the year. The care at which China has been manicuring her capital city and her image to the rest of the world demonstrates the importance she holds in a successful staging of the Games. Never before have so many eyes been ready to look at China. Just under four billion viewers watched each of the last three Olympiads a piece. I think it’s a safe assumption, that this year’s games will well exceed Sydney’s record of 3.9 billion viewers. The indigenous audience of the newly-monied Chinese middle-class will definitely be watching.
Now, there’s a healthy protest movement hell-bent on disrupting the Games because of accusations of human rights abuses leveled at Chinese authorities. You have to wonder if negative action, protesting in this case, will actually affect any change in China. I strongly doubt it will. In fact, protesting will probably result in a hardening of opinion towards the international community. Sounds like excellent fodder for propaganda magicians, right? The only benefit I see is that it’s an easy route to wringing Western guilt about human rights.
Economics are the only true way to affect change. I’m a couch economist, but even with my elementary understand on supply and demand curves, I can tell you that China is not hosting the Olympics so it can sustain a societal status quo. Holding an Olympics is like building a money-making machine for generations to come. It’s a flare to say, “come visit me, do business with me too”.
Money affects change, employment brings women out of their traditional maternal roles. Increased internationalisation of trade brings businessmen and emigrants into a country. As wealth settles through a society, the boats of many rise with a tide of enhanced living standards. Progress like this does not happen in a closed political vacuum; a place where rights of citizens is stamped on.
The political body of modern China is really is the strong base of a really big tree. Economic breakthroughs and the civic freedoms that they yield are branches that China needs to aspire to. Spitting on China for holding the Games without realising the sheer effort required to change an administrative engine that rules billions is nonsensical. Work on China’s political system may take generations. This is a long-term bet. I’d rather the job was done slow and well, wouldn’t you? I’d also prefer if change came from the Chinese people themselves. Since when has external pressure and shaping of politics inside a country ever resulted in a positive outcome?
Protesting and cutting off support for the Games because of ideological differences with a political system, will not cement international ties with that country. Ties that could be used as links and supports as a country gradually moves from international pariah to friendly deal-maker. I’ll not entertain comparisons with the Reich and 1932 1936 either. China is opening herself to the world culturally and economically, Germany was not.
Card-carrying, hemp-wearing protesters may believe they are fighting the good fight by protesting, but saying No like that isn’t worth a fig. Change needs to come from China herself. The spotlight is set to shine on China come August 8th, she’s ready to step into it. Are you?
Of course, just as this post is scheduled to be published Amnesty International honcho, Colm O’Gorman is on Phantom advocating positive action to highlight human rights issues in China. And no, I don’t agree with his thinking.