China, finally

I am delighted that our national — our Western — love affair with China is hitting the skids. We were in love with nothing but its huge and opening market and plain greed pushed every company in sight to move into China, blindly and blithely ignoring the problems there. We could have opened our eyes over human rights. We could have opened our eyes over free speech, Yahoo’s complicity in jailing a journalist, other companies’ complicity in censoring the speech of the Chinese. We could have opened our eyes over the country’s unregulated and amoral economy, poisoning our children, pets, and poor people (some say that is just a stage in economic development; I say bullshit, it is the product of a dictatorship without a moral center). We’ve had so many opportunities. At last, we’re opening our eyes over Tibet and I hope we reexamine our lust for China’s money and the leverage we have to make it behave like a civilized and moral economy.

Finally, the IOC realizes it has a crisis. Finally, companies are realizing that their association with China can be bad for them. Finally, public figures are taking a leadership role (see Steven Spielberg’s refusal to work on the games). And finally, politicians are realizing that they must take a stand. Hillary Clinton and John McCain have said they would not attend the Olympic opening ceremonies, a small but important symbolic statement.

(Barack Obama won’t go that far. Said the Times this morning: “Senator Barack Obama suggested that Mr. Bush should wait to make a final decision, but leave a boycott ‘firmly on the table.’ ” Firmly on the table? That sounds like something a Bush press secretary would say. You see, friends, this is the kind of prevarication I fear from an Obama administration. It’s a small thing, of course, but I see in that small thing I see someone who wants to be everyone’s friend and who has trouble making a firm decision. I see Jimmy Carter.)