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.)

  • Michael Katcher

    I disagree Jeff, in a lot of different ways.

    First and foremost is the characterization of China as a dictatorship. It would imply that Hu Jintao is a dictator, which would imply a lot more authority than he actually has. One-party rule? Yes. Moderately repressive? Yes. But when we throw around words like dictatorship so loosely, it devalues their meaning. They have a regular changing of the guard that is governed not by when the current guy dies but based on mandated time periods.

    More importantly, I would note that the majority of the population supports the government in this case… something you fail to mention and is not an insignificant point.

    Finally, this wasn’t a peaceful Tibetan demonstration brutally suppressed by the Chinese government. Have you read the reports of what happened? Tibetans burned down every single business owned by the ethnic Han Chinese and many of them fled for their lives seeking refuge in local monasteries to escape the mobs.

    I don’t mean to suggest that China is a model society or to excuse their actions. They are emerging from poverty and isolation and they presently value stability over freedom. There is no question that the overall direction has been towards greater freedom, not less. Bashing China with inaccurate invectives (as you have done before) will only increase their xenophobia and the nationalism of the population, and a process of encouragement and engagement will yield far better results than mindless words.

  • Michael Katcher

    And for the record, I am avid reader of and frequently agree with BuzzMachine. I am pushing back only because I respect your opinion and think you will be open to reasoned discussion on this topic.

  • It’s entirely disingenuous to lecture the rest of the world on human rights considering our hundred year systematic displacement and elimination of the Native Americans, and our two hundred years of moving slaves from Africa, an unspeakable crime which plagues the sub-Saharan continent to this day. I’m not about to lecture another country when we have no moral high ground.

  • Michael Katcher

    Not that I disagree, but out of curiousity, how does the slave trade affect sub-Saharan Africa today? I’ve never heard that argued before.

  • Jimmy

    If we’re going to lay blame, we need to lay it at our own feet. It’s we Americans who crave the cheap products and “everyday low prices.” We give a market to the products this country produces. We look the other way because it’s easier than giving up what we want.

  • The diagnosis seems obvious. China is a symptom. Obama is a symptom. We, the People, are the cure. I offer THREE TREATMENTS: (1) 21st Century Globalization – One System with One Destiny at; (2) I Am an American – Who Are You? at; and (3) Election 2008 – It Isn’t About Four Years – The Second American Revolution and Coming American Renaissance at . The prognosis is grave, but, not, necessarily terminal. Be Well…

  • nicolasz


    Honestly, you should calm down. There is so much wrong with your analysis that I find it amazing that i comes from someone as smart as you.

    First offer. Come to China for a week and you can sleep on my sofa bed, hang out with my friends, walk the streets of China and see China for what it is. Most people who visit are blown away by the opportunity in the country, friendliness of the people, and yes, freedom that most people have. I’m pretty sure that, if you come open minded, you’ll be regretting your above post very quickly.

    Second, assume that the Chinese government does know that there are a lot of problems. And that they are working at slowly changing them. But ya know – when I arrived in China ten years ago I couldn’t buy butter anywhere and there were two cash machines that allowed me to take money from my foreign bank account. What has already happened in ten years is incredible, but change takes time. However, by brow beating the Chinese you aren’t going to get change. All you’ll get is increased popular support for the government. Most Americans would probably rally around their government, despite any disagreements with it, in the face of continuous pressure from overseas.

    Third, and this is the hardest for most people to understand, don’t assume that countries have to (or want to) develop to become like the United States. As hard as it is for most American’s to accept, most nations see the good features of American society and morality, but also see its many failings.

    Therefore the society that will develop in China will be different from the United States. When you argue that China should behave like a “civilised and moral economy” what you are really saying is that it should behave like America ( which given the US’ expansionist and militaristic nature is probably not a good thing). What will develop in China will not be an uncivilised and immoral economy – it will be just different from the US.

  • Tina

    I totally agree with Nicolasz’ comments.Yes, Jeff, you should know that in China, Tibet, human rights, or GFW not everything, what’s more we do not have the same understanding with you as well.In China,we have the biggest population, and we also have the internet to know everything in the world.But, when we talk about USA, or when we talk about UK,mostly, we regard us as a bystander or passerby. Normally, we don’t give an absolute comment or boycott or criticism on the country.We know we are not among one of yours. Since you are not in China,i think you don’t learn too much about the culture in China,which has five thousands years. China is not the China reported by your media,at least not the real one.Maybe China in your eyes is the one ten or twenty years ago.Now,great changes really have taken place as Nicolasz mentioned above.Hope you can come to China to have a look. Warmly welcome.Thanks.