Thursday, April 10, 2008

This is not a time for childish games with China

It has been a long time since we had a popular craze similar to "pet rocks" but the time has arrived when it has become popular to buy into another childish game.

The world is unhappy with the "human rights" record of China; and well it should. Except for the freedom to make money, capitalist style, China deprives its citizens of human rights possessed by about 20% of the rest of the world. China is not unique in having a controlling government, but other countries are not hosting the Olympics for a while yet so attention is focused on the mammoth of the east who, incidentally, owns a big chunk of the United States debt.

As do-gooders around the world whine and wring their hands in sorrow, China’s human rights practices will not go away anytime soon; and if and when they do, it will not be because other countries disapprove. In some ways China is to be admired for the way they address whatever they perceive as threats to their country. Of course, it goes without saying that a country with the ability to eradicate such threats will inevitably use this power in many instances civilized countries would disapprove. Nonetheless, who among us thinks China will not withstand Islamic terror much more successfully than any other country because of their "style", for example?

Like many Asian cultures, China has a very strong sense of "self" and disrespect, real or perceived, is not taken lightly. Those "well meaning" among us who advocate boycott of the Olympics in China this summer fail to appreciate the major impact such action will have not only on the Chinese government but the Chinese people as well. China is rightfully proud of advancements it has made economically and scientifically in a very short time. Fifty years ago it would never have been predicted by even the most astute of us that China would have developed so far so fast.

An Olympic boycott of one form or another will never cause any change in the internal working of the country. Like the pet rock, those that believe in it will experience the same meaningless self gratification without any mature sense of accomplishment. The only result will be a poke in the ribs of an enormous giant with whom you want to get along as much as possible and not needlessly anger. That is not to say there may not be a time and place when it may be necessary to risk provoking China to actually protect our self interest and citizens; it’s just that we should have a better reason to do so than objecting to China’s internal human rights restrictions.

If the truth be told there are countries treating their citizens far worse than China and little or nothing is done individually or collectively to correct or even object meaningfully to such conduct. The examples are too numerous to mention but the needless loss of millions of lives in Africa is one.

If bad behavior toward its citizens is reason for taking some sort of action, how come there is so much criticism of the United States for taking action to free Iraqis from the horrendous conduct of Saddam Hussein and his sons? Are not indiscriminate killing, torture and ethnic cleansing sufficient for the world to notice a need to do something about it?

Another point worth noting as President Bush contemplates whether or not to make the meaningless gesture of boycotting the Olympic starting ceremony as some other nationals leaders are doing. In times of crisis, big or small, a person or country is likely to regard an act of respect and separation from the critical crowd as very meaningful. Even though nothing may actually be said about it, China will be very pleased with the United States for not joining with other countries as they slap China in the face in an act which China will undoubtedly perceive as disrespect causing an Asian "loss of face" which will be long remembered.

President Bush should not play the pet rock game; he should take this public opportunity to recognize China for its accomplishments and set aside differences over meaningful issues for another quiet time.

No comments: