The Olympic Rings Lighting Up the Sky--Can They Be a Beacon of Hope?
Sixteen days ago I, much as the rest of the world, was blown away by the spectacle of the Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. I was so impressed I wrote a post entitled Olympic Hope believing that the pageantry and the slogan of One World, One Dream really meant that China was ready to move into the future as a leading world citizen. However, one man's dream may very well be another man's nightmare.
President Bush, interviewed by Bob Costas during the Olympic Games made the statement that the United States still has differences with China and that part of the reason he was in China was to show the Chinese respect. President Bush warned that all future U.S. Presidents needed to understand that we need to work with China and not to make demands on them. At the same time, President Bush indicated that there was nothing wrong in the United States at the present time, with our economy or otherwise.
I'm very concerned by these statements and I find them shocking. It is very clear that China is flexing the muscle of 1/5 of the world's population and of an economic giant. While I find myself agreeing with President Bush that all nations of the world must respect China as they must respect any nation, and that there are a great many areas that the U.S. is in agreement with China and that there are a great many areas in which we continue to disagree and that it's important to maintain relations so that we can work on the areas in which we disagree; what worries me is the apparent weakness and deference that President Bush is showing to China. The United States is a world leader. Our country is not subservient to any other. While the United States is no better than any other nation and in a lot of ways we are far worse as we trample on other sovereign nation's rights and engineer coups, the U.S. must not allow itself to become subservient to China. All nations should respect each other and deal with each other honestly and openly as equals in the world. All nations are proud and have unique cultures and history that deserve to be treated with respect and treated honestly and openly and fairly. But because the United States respects China and wants to negotiate with them in areas in which the two countries disagree, the United States must remain firm in upholding basic principles in which all nations agree--most importantly, that of honesty, and fairness and in human rights.
Beijing Closing Ceremony Fireworks
What has become clear during the 16 days of the Beijing Olympiad is this:
1) China will suppress all speech and apparent freedoms that do not agree with the official government position. During these Olympic games, while China had set up official areas far removed from the action of the Olympic Games for planned protests, all protesters had to apply by submitting a form for a permit in advance. Not a single permit for a protest was approved. Further, Joey Cheek's visa to attend the games was denied because he was involved in protesting China's role in Darfur. Further, they even went out of their way to suppress Chinese bloggers who wanted to report on the games. I strongly recommend you visit Globally Rational to read about this incident and to be just a little bit inspired over what the real potential of the blogosphere really is.
2) China will endorse cheating to manipulate Olympic results. The Age Scandal of the Chinese Olympic Gymnastic Team will be Sports News for the next decade. A former member of the Chinese Olympic Team admitted she was only fourteen when she competed in the 2000 Games in Sydney. And the implications of this are frightening. If China will manipulate birth certificates and passports just to make an athlete eligible for competition, what else will the government lie about intentionally? And how will any nation, let alone the United States, be able to trust China and work out issues of major world importance knowing that we are probably being lied to?
3) Most inspiring and frightening of all, China is capable of doing anything it sets its mind to. The Beijing Olympics were a beautiful event. The Chinese Government did everything in its power to ensure this. They dictated English would be taught. They stopped industrial operations to clear the polluted air. They built amazingly beautiful and functional venues for these games that have been hailed as landmarks in architecture. They convinced their population that it was their duty to present a positive face to the world, and they pulled off the greatest live human spectacle in history in the form of the opening ceremonies. What else can China achieve if they set their collective mind to it? A lunar landing? No doubt. Great science and environmentalism? If they want to. Control of all Asia both economically and militarily? It seems as if such a thing is within China's grasp.
See You In London in 2012, and Vancouver in 2010
I still believe that the Beijing Olympic Games represents hope for China's participation in world politics in an adult and civilized manner and I welcome that participation. The Olympic Movement is precious in that every Olympiad when all the nations of the world come together, all the issues of the world can be examined and discussed in productive ways while we gather in the celebration of sport. There are so many important issues that face us for the short term and long term survival of our world civilization and our survival as a species. China has a stake in this just like all nations and all humans have a stake in our collective existence and coexistence. But coming together as "One World, with One Dream" will not be a completely smooth or simple process. Again, I actually agree with President Bush that we must respect China and work with them--celebrating what we agree, while making progress in the areas that we disagree. And I think it's incumbent on us to stand firm on these positions. If we do not, we will lose not only our hope for a better world which China has given us a glimpse of with these spectacular Olympic Games, but we will lose hope in our own leaders to preserve the values of our own nation with which we hold most dear.
Thanks for reading.
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