Yesterday, President Bush announced that he had accepted an invitation from Hu Jintao to attend the 2008 Olympics, which will be held next August in Beijing. The two of them met in a private session in Sydney before the start of a regional summit of Pacific Rim leaders. “I was anxious to accept,” Bush told reporters.
“For the Chinese, that’s a public vote of confidence,” said Michael Green, who worked in the National Security Council until late 2005. But it’s more than just a vote, Mr. Green: it’s legitimization. Activists have announced multiple boycotts of the Games for various reasons, from China’s tacit support of the murderous Janjaweed militia in Darfur to its repression of Tibetans and the liquidation of their culture. Beijing has become increasingly worried in recent months about the controversy swirling around the upcoming sporting extravaganza, its coming-out party.
It seems that everyone knows the significance of President Bush’s acceptance except for the White House. Jim Jeffrey, Deputy National Security Adviser, said the President “was going to the Olympics for the sports and not for any political statement.”
This trip will be more than just a vacation, and Jeffrey’s stated reason for the acceptance is disingenuous. We can only hope that the Fan-in-Chief (who didn’t, by the way, go to the Athens Games in 2004), will somehow find the inner strength either to snub the world’s leading autocrat next August or to admit that he intends to support the Chinese regime.