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|Gaining from the Games
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 8/14/08
When Beijing was the awarded the honor of hosting the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, it found itself suddenly at the center of world attention, some of it perhaps unwanted. China’s record on human rights was and is the focus of much scrutiny which at times seemed to draw attention away from the spectacular and rapid economic development of the world’s most populous nation. China’s Communist leaders often regard criticism of its human rights record as unwarranted interference in its internal affairs. That did not silence the criticism and President George W. Bush preceded his arrival in China for the Olympics with some fairly harsh criticism of his own, precipitating a warning from his hosts against interference in China’s internal affairs.
J.F. Kelly, Jr.
Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive
who writes on current events and military subjects.
He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]
Democratic nations learn to live with criticism from internal as well as external sources. The U.S. government gets plenty from both sources, some of it undoubtedly deserved. However, verbal criticism is one thing. Acting out that criticism is quite another. I’ve done plenty of criticizing in my time but I’ve never been much of a fan of demonstrations, protest marches, boycotts and the like. They often inconvenience others, disturb the peace, damage property, injure people and provoke reactions which can quickly escalate. Participants often seem more intent on drawing attention to themselves than to their cause. And when violence or disorder is the outcome, the cause, however high-minded, suffers in the public perception.
Peaceful protest in one’s own country by its own citizens is, at least in America, a basic right. Without it, we might still be practicing segregation and women wouldn’t be allowed to vote. But some other countries are not as magnanimous about tolerating protests and demonstrations. While such policies may justifiably provoke external criticism, the choice regarding how much and what types of protest demonstrations to allow in their country is theirs to make, not ours.
Consequently, when American citizens staged a demonstration in Tiananmen Square or climbed a flagpole to unfurl a Tibetan banner, they deserved to be promptly deported. They are not only in possible violation of the laws of another sovereign nation but they are abusing the hospitality of the host country. Some Americans mistakenly believe that they have some kind of diplomatic immunity from the laws of another nation when they travel abroad and that they are free to speak and act as they please. They seem astonished to learn that their “rights” are not the same as they were back home.
Beijing won the right to host the Olympics and China’s many critics need to get over it. Nothing is gained by politicizing the games and much can be lost in terms of goodwill and future relations. It is evident from the level and scope of the preparations that hosting the games has been an intensely unifying experience for most of the Chinese people. They are justifiably proud of the remarkable economic progress their country has made and its emergence as a world power. They view the games as a unique opportunity to showcase this progress and to invite the world to learn more about their country and its culture.
The United States and China, in spite of differences, are inextricably joined in common pursuits and goals. China needs the American market and technology and the United States needs China to continue to purchase its debt. And as the huge Chinese population continues to grow in affluence, it will increasingly become a market for U.S. exports. For trade to flourish, peaceful relations are essential. Signs point to a continuing strengthening of relations. North Korea’s apparent decision to forgo further development of nuclear weapons was almost certainly a result, at least in part, of Chinese intervention.
As if to symbolize these trends, China and the United States have recently dedicated immense new embassies. President Bush, while in Beijing, dedicated the new $434 million, eight-story U.S. Embassy there, the second largest in the world, likening it to the solid foundation underpinning relations between the two countries. It follows the dedication of the new Chinese Embassy in Washington, the largest foreign embassy in our nation’s capital.
China remains a Communist nation with some values, customs and policies that differ from ours. We may disagree, sometimes profoundly, on the ways to reach certain goals, but in the final analysis, the goals are mostly similar and are best achieved through peace and mutual respect. CRO
2008 J. F. Kelly, Jr.