Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Since Sunday, I have been pondering Nick Cohen's argument that we should boycott the Chinese Olympics. I caught a glimpse of Clive James saying the same thing on Question Time. Both Cohen and James argue that we should boycott them because of China's cynical foreign policy. Neither give any weight to her internal policies. There's a good reason for this - though China's fondness for capital punishment and suppression of dissent are distasteful, it is a much better place than it was under Mao, who, lest we forget, was responsible for the deaths of 70 million of his own people. It is worth asking, in the present climate, what Mia Farrow was doing during the reign of Mao? Protesting outside Chinese embassies? I doubt it. The record of the whole of the Western left on China is dismal. For years they were apologists for the most bloody regime in human history. That is not an argument for saying the boycotters are wrong now, but we need to bear it in mind. China's current foreign policy is, undoubtedly, cynical in the extreme and, equally undoubtedly, the cause of many innocent deaths. But the same is true of many other countries - including, frequently, our own. Furthermore, engaging with an internally reforming China may well be a better way of influencing her foreign policy than a boycott. A more open country is, in the long run, more vulnerable to shame. From the point of view of our own self-interest, a sullen, bitter, vengeful China is probably the last thing we need right now. That said, I am viscerally attracted to the idea of the boycott. The Chinese Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army are still intact. They once jointly formed the nastiest organisation ever created by man. A boycott in protest at the continuing deification of Mao and his goons would make sense to me. But realism is better.
Perhaps the real culprit is the Olympics itself. Bloated, absurd, dictatorial in its administration, the event is nothing to do with sport and everything to do with providing a grotesque opportunity for bureaucratic and political low lifers to fan the flames of their vanity, to strut and fret their hour upon the stage. We were bounced into 2012 by a goverment lie that understated the true cost by about 900 per cent. If you're really worried about Darfur, how about a protest against 2012? The billions involved might be just enough to sort out Sudan.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:58 am