Wednesday, February 20, 2008

China and the Olympics

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.


  1. Where would you put them. Iceland is the only place that for the last number of years has not ticked someone or another off. But wait, it will come. The greens are prime to my mind for the roll. Sooner or later they will have a problem with electricity from volcanic activity.
    They really do not like people.

  2. The London Olympics may well prove to be the biggest wake ever held and consume the last of the inheritance of empire. Hubris doesn't begin to describe it.

  3. An excellent plan - we'll be feeling the pain of 2012 for decades to come, especially in London...

  4. !! 2012 !!

    To fan the flames of vanity,
    Of money burned in streets,
    Bloated absurd, dictatorial,
    Olympia unwraps her sheets!

    With monstrous crest and sickening din,
    A badge like Devil’s wings.
    Red Ken s unholy parody
    On all good sporting things.

    The gruesome spawn of Livingstone,
    To strut and fret his hour.
    Scorn, mock, deride him: He is dumb
    He keeps your purpose sour.

    Seb Coe already had his time;
    One far fierce triumph and sweet;
    There was a shout about his ears,
    And gold beneath his feet...

    (Courtesy: Appleyard-Chesterton)

  5. I put my small voice to the no olympics 2012 online petition but, you know, it's sport and that's more sacrosanct than god in this country.

    doing the same against china would be hypocritical I think as most of my laptop appear to be made there!

  6. While I detest the Chinese regime, an Olympic boycott does not appeal to me. The athletes are the only ones who suffer the consequences, not the governments. Carter's misguided boycott of Moscow over Afghanistan accomplished nothing except guarantee the subsequent boycott of Los Angeles. Rather than a boycott, perhaps the various olympic committees could show some actual nerve and refuse to coerce their athletes into signing contracts guaranteeing they will not criticize the PRC. The PRC won't like it, but they aren't about to turn around a plane full of athletes days before the games begn. Talk about PR disasters - they have the PRC by the short & curlies and they don't even realize it.

    Whether the whole charade of the contemporary Olympic game movement (professionals masquerading as amateurs) is worth continuing is another matter entirely. Not Beijing-specific. I'd be delighted to read that London thought better of its application, for example, and was ceasing to go forward with the program. Let them sue in court. They may just lose.

  7. Made your final comment on Nick Cohen's blog: I will happily support a boycott of 2008 provided we are consistent and boycott 2012.

    Being a student of a number of Tibetan Buddhist teachers I have no illusions about the PRC but for Britons to be calling for a boycott of the Beijing games on the grounds of unethical foreign policy seems the height of hypocrisy. Your realist inclinations are spot on I think.