Was the uprising in Tibet predictable? The Times reports today that the Chinese authorities appear to have been caught by surprise. That itself is a surprise, given Beijing’s acute sensitivities about anything that might disrupt the Olympic games scheduled for August.
Arch Puddington, writing in COMMENTARY this past November, surveyed previous Olympics held in unfree countries. The conclusion of his China Games is even more arresting today than it was five months ago:
If the past is any guide, it is the most sinister and shocking features of a dictatorship that are the likeliest to emerge when it hosts the Olympics.
For Germany in 1936 at the Berlin games, it was militarism and anti-Semitism that reared their hideous heads. For the USSR in 1980, it was imperial aggression, with Afghanistan the Kremlin’s most recent victim.
Puddington did not offer any specific predictions about what China might face in 2008. But he speculated that “the Chinese authorities themselves might well be in the dark about what the Olympics finally portend.” This, too, as their handling of the Tibet uprising turns into a fiasco, was a prescient observation.
If the Chinese authorities want to stay abreast of events in their own country, perhaps they should be reading COMMENTARY. Oh, they can’t. It’s locked up behind their Great Firewall.