Monday, October 15, 2007

Seeing red

I was a good boy this weekend. Even though, it's true, I did indulge in my monthly book splurge, I did a good thing Saturday by reading an entire book in the bookstore, thus saving myself $700NT, hooray. I simply couldn't justify spending over $20US on a ~120-page book, but I couldn't resist its contents. The book is called The China Fantasy, by James Mann (at John Hopkins), and although it's short, it is chock full of interesting details and, while certainly vehement about its thesis, never descends to vitriol, remaining pellucid and concise.

Before I get into The China Fantasy, let me just note I really enjoyed Tvedten's The View from the Monastery (though I could have enjoyed it more with more content) and James Schall's Another Sort of Learning: Selected Contrary Essays on How to Finally Acquire an Education While Still in College or Anywhere Else: Containing Some Belated Advice about How to Employ Your Leisure Time When Ultimate Questions Remain Perplexing in Spite of Your Highest Earned Academic Degree, Together with Sundry Book Lists Nowhere Else in Captivity to Be Found (the title of which begs to be written at full length … and what's really scary is that two or three centuries ago in Europe and America, titles were customarily that long or longer!)

Now, concerning Mann's book.

Mann's thesis is that "American's current China policy amounts to an unstated bargain: We have abandoned any serious attempt to challenge China's one-party state, and we have gotten in exchange the right to unfettered commerce with China" (p. 110). Part of the problem with the one-state system in China is that it is wrapped up with a host of other political evils, namely, a stricture on political organization, puppet-string freedom of the press, and a basic degradation of most of China's population, as hard laborers and peasants, for the good of China's shiny happy new progressive urban face. (One aspect of China's slippery geopolitics that really grabbed me was the fact that China has been, and is, a consistent backer of some of thw world's more unjust regimes. For example, not only did China provide weapons to Syria but also awarded Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe an honorary degree [p. 24-25]!) Indeed, while most visitors to China are impressed with the progress being made in big cities among the rising middle class, this impression is subject to what Mann calls the Starbucks fallacy, or McDonald's triumphalism. The fallacy is part of what he calls the Soothing Scenario, an approach towards China that assumes that once it starts reaping enough benefits of capitalism, it will inevitably play along and become more democratic. The alternative view is the Upheaval Scenario, which assumes China's Communist regime will simply collapse from corruption or be torn apart by public protests. Mann posits a third option, which amounts to the claim, the open question really, that China might both enjoy market progress and persist in its totalitarian ways, or, alternatively, that China may well neither collapse nor open itself to greater democracy. Here is a nice précis by Mann himself on his Third Option.

The illusion of a progressive, open China is created in American minds by the vivid, and carefully propagandized, glimpses of happy Westernization they experience in the cities. But the shiny gloss put on China's urban better half does not account for the fact that the country's ten largest cities account for only 5% (62 million) of China's total population. In effect this means that as long as the upper-middle is well publicized and well fed, the world can -- nay, does -- by and large ignore the crushing conditions of the other 95%. Mann sees the upcoming Olympics as a major test for China. Will it put on a happy face for the world and then slip back into hardline repression in the ensuing years? How will Beijing handle possible political protests in the city? Mann makes the insightful argument that the Orientalism in which the Olympics will be soaked -- smiling peasants, soothing tones of the pipa, alluring shots of martial artists, etc. -- will only serve to make China cute, and thus to deflect any light from its dark side. I have been told Beijing even plans to ghettoize the poor in the city during the Games (I await confirmation of this in Chinese news, but once I get it, I will post it here). Mann's basic claim is that it is highly naive of American leaders to play along with China's veneer of democracy, as Clinton did when he accepted the 1993-94 Mitchell-Pelosi legislation to link trade benefits (and penalties) with China's human rights progress (and affronts), but only on an executive, as opposed to congressional, basis, thus making it easier to revoke at any time later (p. 81). Mann is not partisan about, claiming instead that every president since Nixon has played fallen prey to the China Fantasy in some form. It is time to wake up.

Beijing is, by all accounts, the world's dirtiest city. It is time to wake up about its equally sooty political career. I for one intend to boycott the Beijing Olympics. And in this I am not alone.

1) Boycott Beijing

By Dr. Chuck Baldwin
Posted: July 21, 2001

Baldwin argues:

The idea of allowing Red China to host the Olympics in order to make it more civilized is also laughable. The 1936 games didn't convert Hitler – the 2008 Olympics won't convert Zemin. It takes more than a bunch of people playing games to change a tyrant's heart.

The cruel conduct of the criminal cabal in China is well documented. Since seizing power, the Communist Chinese have murdered more than 65 million people. They continue to persecute people of faith and imprison political dissidents. The ghoulish practice of using capital punishment to harvest human body parts is also well established. Forced abortions, torture and brutality is the Communist government's normal modus operandi. But to the Olympics Committee, this means nothing.

2) Boycott Beijing?

By Frederick Stakelbeck
web posted May 15, 2006

According to Stakelbeck:

Arguments in support of a U.S.-led boycott of the Beijing games are based on a number of important issues. First, violations of basic human rights in the areas of speech, religion and assembly have continued under the close watch of President Hu. Second, Beijing continues to impede UN Security Council action against Iran by refusing to support economic sanctions or military action. Third, invasion threats made by China against Taiwan, coupled with the veiled buildup of the country's extra-regional military capabilities, continue to endanger world peace. Fourth, Beijing's refusal to adequately address the revaluation of its currency the yuan is counterproductive to global prosperity and market stability. Fifth, the Chinese government increasingly uses sophisticated technologies and penetration techniques to attack critical U.S. computer networks, stealing highly sensitive information from government agencies, financial institutions and defense contractors. Finally, President Hu and his comrades continue to actively support leaders such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe in Africa and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez in South America, providing economic, military and technical assistance that is contingent upon their support of a "One-China" policy.

He ultimately demurs, however, on actually doing anything about this, since the economic repercussions for Wall Street, not to mention the wasted US athletic talent, would be a greater loss. Stakelbeck ends by musing about the "geopolitical posturing" that may precede the games; meanwhile he seems quite unaware of the moral posturing of his own editorial. Rank proportionalism at work. It helps not to voice moral complaints if they are ultimately drowned out by louder economic belly-aching.

3) Boycott Beijing

by Courtesy of The Providence Journal By By Jonathan Zimmerman,
POSTED: Mar 24, 2006

Zimmermann claims "we can expect China's dictators to disguise their cruelties in a colorful haze of artistic and technological wizardry. To be fair," he concedes,

the Chinese leaders have never demonstrated the genocidal mentality or the global ambitions of Nazi Germany. And nominally, of course, China remains a 'communist' nation. But make no mistake: It's also a fascist one.

According to my American Heritage dictionary, fascism is marked by four characteristics: centralization of authority under a dictator; stringent socio-economic controls; suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship; and a policy of belligerent nationalism. The Chinese regime exhibits all four."

Zimmermann concludes by saying:

[S]pare me the anguished retort about "politicizing" the Olympics. The Olympics have always been political. And no one understands that better than the Chinese leaders, who are counting on the Games to advertise their achievements _ and mask their misdeeds.

The only question is whether the rest of the world will play along.

4) Repression continues in China, one year before Olympic Games

Reporters without Borders, who labels China the "biggest prison for journalists and cyber-dissidents", claims:

When the International Olympic Committee assigned the 2008 summer Olympic Games to Beijing on 13 July 2001, the Chinese police were intensifying a crackdown on subversive elements, including Internet users and journalists. Six years later, nothing has changed. But despite the absence of any significant progress in free speech and human rights in China, the IOC’s members continue to turn a deaf ear to repeated appeals from international organisations that condemn the scale of the repression. ...

The world sports movement must now speak out and call for the Chinese people to be allowed to enjoy the freedoms it has been demanding for years. The Olympic Charter says sport must be “at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” Athletes and sports lovers have the right and the duty to defend this charter. The IOC should show some courage and should do everything possible to ensure that Olympism’s values are not freely flouted by the Chinese organisers.

5) Boycott Beijing?

Tim Dunlop
Monday, October 08, 2007

Dunlop notes Christoher Hitchens's "concern over their [China's] role in boycotting action in Darfur, their oppression in Tibet, their role in Zimbabwe and North Korea, as well as the influence they might be able to bring to bear in Burma." Hitchens asks, “How long can Southeast Asia bear the shame and misery of the Burmese junta?” answers, “As long as the embrace of China persists.”

Meanwhile, Dunlop notes, Hitchens says "everybody is getting ready for the lovely time they will have at the Beijing Olympics. If there could be a single demand that would fuse almost all the human rights demands of the contemporary world into one, it would be the call to boycott or cancel this disgusting celebration."

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