Commentary Magazine


Topic: Arthur Waldron

IOC: Stop Bothering China

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is asking the world to stop bothering China on issues such as human rights. “You don’t obtain anything in China with a loud voice,” he said in an interview appearing Friday on the website of the Financial Times. “That is the big mistake of people in the west wanting to add their views. To keep face is of paramount importance. All the Chinese specialists will tell you that only one thing works-respectful, quiet but firm discussion.”

Really? Rogge, echoing the view of China’s Communist Party as carried in People’s Daily, was speaking in the context of protests that for more than a month have dogged the Olympic torch relay, starting with the flame-lighting ceremony in Greece. He raises the broader issue: How should the world deal with China today?

It is true that China will change on its own. The Chinese people are in the midst of the process of both shedding their self-image as outsiders and ending their traditional role as adversaries of the existing global order. There is unimaginable societal change at unheard of speed thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of China’s 1.5 billion or so restless souls. They are making a “kinetic dash into the future” without so much as a roadmap or compass. If there is any cause for optimism in the world today, it is that the Chinese people are aware, assertive, and confident.

But they are not yet in charge. Unfortunately for them, nine men in blue suits and red ties sit at the apex of political power on the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee. These modern autocrats, more than anyone else, are standing in the way of transformation of the Chinese nation.

They have been able to do so and stay in power because they have been ruthlessly pragmatic. They, like all successful leaders, can be flexible when they must. In other words, they react to pressure. As Arthur Waldron has been pointing out recently, they just bowed to global sentiment by agreeing to talk to representatives of the Dalai Lama. And almost universal African defiance of Beijing’s wishes has forced China’s leaders to give up their attempt to deliver arms to the repugnant Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

So if we want China to change now–and not years from now when it will be too late–the world has no choice but to convince the country’s leaders that the price of resistance is too high. Rogge is right insofar as he notes that the Chinese are concerned about world opinion. When the international community has been united in the past, Beijing has almost invariably modified its behavior. So if we want those nine Chinese autocrats to change their abhorrent policies and practices of today, we must give them no choice at this moment but to do the right thing.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is asking the world to stop bothering China on issues such as human rights. “You don’t obtain anything in China with a loud voice,” he said in an interview appearing Friday on the website of the Financial Times. “That is the big mistake of people in the west wanting to add their views. To keep face is of paramount importance. All the Chinese specialists will tell you that only one thing works-respectful, quiet but firm discussion.”

Really? Rogge, echoing the view of China’s Communist Party as carried in People’s Daily, was speaking in the context of protests that for more than a month have dogged the Olympic torch relay, starting with the flame-lighting ceremony in Greece. He raises the broader issue: How should the world deal with China today?

It is true that China will change on its own. The Chinese people are in the midst of the process of both shedding their self-image as outsiders and ending their traditional role as adversaries of the existing global order. There is unimaginable societal change at unheard of speed thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of China’s 1.5 billion or so restless souls. They are making a “kinetic dash into the future” without so much as a roadmap or compass. If there is any cause for optimism in the world today, it is that the Chinese people are aware, assertive, and confident.

But they are not yet in charge. Unfortunately for them, nine men in blue suits and red ties sit at the apex of political power on the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee. These modern autocrats, more than anyone else, are standing in the way of transformation of the Chinese nation.

They have been able to do so and stay in power because they have been ruthlessly pragmatic. They, like all successful leaders, can be flexible when they must. In other words, they react to pressure. As Arthur Waldron has been pointing out recently, they just bowed to global sentiment by agreeing to talk to representatives of the Dalai Lama. And almost universal African defiance of Beijing’s wishes has forced China’s leaders to give up their attempt to deliver arms to the repugnant Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

So if we want China to change now–and not years from now when it will be too late–the world has no choice but to convince the country’s leaders that the price of resistance is too high. Rogge is right insofar as he notes that the Chinese are concerned about world opinion. When the international community has been united in the past, Beijing has almost invariably modified its behavior. So if we want those nine Chinese autocrats to change their abhorrent policies and practices of today, we must give them no choice at this moment but to do the right thing.

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Re: Re: Why We Shouldn’t Boycott the 2008 Games

In my last post I quoted former Israeli silver medalist Yael Arad, who made an impassioned plea against athletes boycotting the Beijing Olympics. One of the commenters, CONTENTIONS blogger Arthur Waldron, offered a dissenting view (as did Gordon Chang), cited a recently-revealed photograph from the 1936 Berlin Olympics of British athletes with their arms out saluting Hitler. This, he argues, shows how the Olympics serve to legitimize the rule of their host country, which is far worse than any good which can come out of it. It’s truly an amazing picture:

hazony-photo.jpg
(Photo credit: The Daily Mail.)

“Think about it hard before you make up your mind about what we do,” Waldron writes. I, for one, am still convinced by Arad’s argument against the boycott. But jeez. What this picture proves is that the Olympics really can become a source for legitimizing bad regimes. But does it have to? These were, after all, the British, who sought appeasement with Nazi Germany well after 1936. The American response was to strip-bomb their tracks with Jesse Owens’ speed, as a prelude to the real war.

In my last post I quoted former Israeli silver medalist Yael Arad, who made an impassioned plea against athletes boycotting the Beijing Olympics. One of the commenters, CONTENTIONS blogger Arthur Waldron, offered a dissenting view (as did Gordon Chang), cited a recently-revealed photograph from the 1936 Berlin Olympics of British athletes with their arms out saluting Hitler. This, he argues, shows how the Olympics serve to legitimize the rule of their host country, which is far worse than any good which can come out of it. It’s truly an amazing picture:

hazony-photo.jpg
(Photo credit: The Daily Mail.)

“Think about it hard before you make up your mind about what we do,” Waldron writes. I, for one, am still convinced by Arad’s argument against the boycott. But jeez. What this picture proves is that the Olympics really can become a source for legitimizing bad regimes. But does it have to? These were, after all, the British, who sought appeasement with Nazi Germany well after 1936. The American response was to strip-bomb their tracks with Jesse Owens’ speed, as a prelude to the real war.

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More on the Hong Kong Elections

As Arthur Waldron has written, the election of Anson Chan to LegCo, Hong Kong’s legislature, was an important victory for democracy in the city, a special administrative region of China. Chan took her seat yesterday after beating Regina Ip, the candidate favored by the Chinese government, in Sunday’s landslide win. The race was especially symbolic because both Chan and Ip sought to fill a vacancy created by the death of Ma Lik. Ma was the head of the misnamed Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the territory’s main pro-Beijing party.

Not surprisingly, Beijing’s friends attacked Chan moments after she was sworn in. Tsang Tak-sing, Hong Kong’s secretary for home affairs, launched a personal attack on the new lawmaker, calling her a “sudden democrat” who cares little for the livelihood of the people of the city. Tsang, by the way, is the brother of a past chairman of the Democratic Alliance.

It’s clear that Mainland leaders not only want the LegCo seat back, they need to eliminate Chan from politics. Her electoral win is not only a victory for democracy in Hong Kong, it is threatening to the rulers of the modern Chinese state. And unfortunately for Beijing, her presence in the legislature undermines a core assumption of the Communist Party of China. Ever since the early 1990′s, Chinese officials have been betting that continual economic growth will keep them in power. Yet Hong Kong’s strong economy this decade did not translate into sufficient support at the polls for the pro-Beijing Ip.

Moreover, Chan’s victory also undercuts an emerging trend in Western thinking. Due to the apparent success of present-day Communism in China, political scientists are beginning to believe that authoritarian is a sustainable form of governance. Columbia University’s Andrew Nathan, for instance, is no friend of Communism, but he now talks of “resilient authoritarianism.” Dozens of analysts have picked up on this theme and doubt the link between economic progress and democratization. Francis Fukuyama’s seminal End of History is now ridiculed.

Yet Anson Chan’s victory reminds political scientists that real people do not think prosperity is a substitute for representative governance. The academics and analysts should remember their Tocqueville. In The Old Regime and the French Revolution he wrote that sustained prosperity does not tranquilize a citizenry. On the contrary, it promotes “a spirit of unrest.”

So we are all in debt to Chan, dubbed “Hong Kong’s conscience,” for reminding us that repressive governments are never as strong as they appear. Yesterday was a good moment for the people of Hong Kong—and for the rest of us as well.

As Arthur Waldron has written, the election of Anson Chan to LegCo, Hong Kong’s legislature, was an important victory for democracy in the city, a special administrative region of China. Chan took her seat yesterday after beating Regina Ip, the candidate favored by the Chinese government, in Sunday’s landslide win. The race was especially symbolic because both Chan and Ip sought to fill a vacancy created by the death of Ma Lik. Ma was the head of the misnamed Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the territory’s main pro-Beijing party.

Not surprisingly, Beijing’s friends attacked Chan moments after she was sworn in. Tsang Tak-sing, Hong Kong’s secretary for home affairs, launched a personal attack on the new lawmaker, calling her a “sudden democrat” who cares little for the livelihood of the people of the city. Tsang, by the way, is the brother of a past chairman of the Democratic Alliance.

It’s clear that Mainland leaders not only want the LegCo seat back, they need to eliminate Chan from politics. Her electoral win is not only a victory for democracy in Hong Kong, it is threatening to the rulers of the modern Chinese state. And unfortunately for Beijing, her presence in the legislature undermines a core assumption of the Communist Party of China. Ever since the early 1990′s, Chinese officials have been betting that continual economic growth will keep them in power. Yet Hong Kong’s strong economy this decade did not translate into sufficient support at the polls for the pro-Beijing Ip.

Moreover, Chan’s victory also undercuts an emerging trend in Western thinking. Due to the apparent success of present-day Communism in China, political scientists are beginning to believe that authoritarian is a sustainable form of governance. Columbia University’s Andrew Nathan, for instance, is no friend of Communism, but he now talks of “resilient authoritarianism.” Dozens of analysts have picked up on this theme and doubt the link between economic progress and democratization. Francis Fukuyama’s seminal End of History is now ridiculed.

Yet Anson Chan’s victory reminds political scientists that real people do not think prosperity is a substitute for representative governance. The academics and analysts should remember their Tocqueville. In The Old Regime and the French Revolution he wrote that sustained prosperity does not tranquilize a citizenry. On the contrary, it promotes “a spirit of unrest.”

So we are all in debt to Chan, dubbed “Hong Kong’s conscience,” for reminding us that repressive governments are never as strong as they appear. Yesterday was a good moment for the people of Hong Kong—and for the rest of us as well.

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Postmarks for Freedom

On Wednesday, People’s Daily, the self-described mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, announced that China had returned all mail to Taiwan that was postmarked with the slogan “Taiwan’s Entry into the UN.”

“Taiwan authority preaching ‘Taiwan independence’ through post services has infringed on Taiwan compatriots’ freedom of communication,” said Fan Liqing, spokeswoman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office. “This has seriously impaired the exchanges of letters between people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait as well as Taiwan people’s exchanges with other parts of the world.”

Ms. Fan has it backwards. It was Beijing—not Taipei—that disrupted the mails by refusing to deliver 158 letters. Unfortunately, her government’s tough tactic worked because Taiwan subsequently dropped the automatic use of the postmark, which was intended to boost the island’s campaign for worldwide recognition of its independent status. Taiwan Post, the island’s postal service, says it will now only use the controversial postmark upon customer request.

So Beijing has shown that it will block Taiwan’s mail. But will it block America’s? It’s unlikely that President Bush will ask the U.S. Postal Service to use the postmark that offends Beijing. As Arthur Waldron has written in contentions, Washington wrongly has taken China’s side in opposing Taiwan’s push for UN membership.

Yet Americans don’t have to wait for their leaders to act. They can customize their own postmarks. Today, we can even design our own stamps. This controversy has motivated my wife and me to customize our stamps with this slogan: “Support Taiwan.” I think it’s high time that people in the West, and especially Americans, show the world’s large autocracies what we think of their campaigns to intimidate small democracies. We can lick despots in many ways, even by licking our stamps.

On Wednesday, People’s Daily, the self-described mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, announced that China had returned all mail to Taiwan that was postmarked with the slogan “Taiwan’s Entry into the UN.”

“Taiwan authority preaching ‘Taiwan independence’ through post services has infringed on Taiwan compatriots’ freedom of communication,” said Fan Liqing, spokeswoman for Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office. “This has seriously impaired the exchanges of letters between people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait as well as Taiwan people’s exchanges with other parts of the world.”

Ms. Fan has it backwards. It was Beijing—not Taipei—that disrupted the mails by refusing to deliver 158 letters. Unfortunately, her government’s tough tactic worked because Taiwan subsequently dropped the automatic use of the postmark, which was intended to boost the island’s campaign for worldwide recognition of its independent status. Taiwan Post, the island’s postal service, says it will now only use the controversial postmark upon customer request.

So Beijing has shown that it will block Taiwan’s mail. But will it block America’s? It’s unlikely that President Bush will ask the U.S. Postal Service to use the postmark that offends Beijing. As Arthur Waldron has written in contentions, Washington wrongly has taken China’s side in opposing Taiwan’s push for UN membership.

Yet Americans don’t have to wait for their leaders to act. They can customize their own postmarks. Today, we can even design our own stamps. This controversy has motivated my wife and me to customize our stamps with this slogan: “Support Taiwan.” I think it’s high time that people in the West, and especially Americans, show the world’s large autocracies what we think of their campaigns to intimidate small democracies. We can lick despots in many ways, even by licking our stamps.

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Weekend Reading

This week the United States is engaging in its first direct talks with North Korea in over five years—apparently, according to the New York Times, to “persuade” the North Koreans to fulfill their part of February’s “initial actions.” This plainly dubious agreement was exposed at the time on contentions by both Max Boot and Joshua Muravchik, and yesterday by Gordon Chang.

According to the Times, The State Department says that the direct talks are meant only to “speed up” the inception of multilateral talks. But is it a surprise that the North Korean government must be “persuaded” actually to abide by its commitments?

North Korea has been a large subject for COMMENTARY. For this weekend’s reading we offer a few of our best recent articles on the topic.

A Korean Solution?
Arthur Waldron – June 2005

Our Game with North Korea
Arthur Waldron – February 2004

Facing up to North Korea
Joshua Muravchik – March 2003

This week the United States is engaging in its first direct talks with North Korea in over five years—apparently, according to the New York Times, to “persuade” the North Koreans to fulfill their part of February’s “initial actions.” This plainly dubious agreement was exposed at the time on contentions by both Max Boot and Joshua Muravchik, and yesterday by Gordon Chang.

According to the Times, The State Department says that the direct talks are meant only to “speed up” the inception of multilateral talks. But is it a surprise that the North Korean government must be “persuaded” actually to abide by its commitments?

North Korea has been a large subject for COMMENTARY. For this weekend’s reading we offer a few of our best recent articles on the topic.

A Korean Solution?
Arthur Waldron – June 2005

Our Game with North Korea
Arthur Waldron – February 2004

Facing up to North Korea
Joshua Muravchik – March 2003

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China Conundrum

What should we do about the rise of China? To answer this question, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) convened an “independent task force,” a group of thirty experts, including Commentary contributors Aaron Friedberg and Arthur Waldron. The group has just issued its findings under the title: U.S.-China Relations: An Affirmative Agenda, A Responsible Course.

Like all such documents, the report has its share of compelling and tedious moments. The most revealing section of this one is its nine dissents, a record-breaker for the consensus-seeking CFR. (For the record, Friedberg and Waldron are among the dissenters.) In his demurral, Winston Lord, U.S. ambassador to the PRC under Ronald Reagan, complains that the report “seriously understates the harshness of the Chinese political system and the backsliding in recent years on political reform and human rights.”

Coming at the same issue from another direction is Maurice Greenberg, the insurance tycoon and former chairman of AIG, who in his own dissent takes issue with what he calls the report’s “persistent urging of democracy in China.”

Read More

What should we do about the rise of China? To answer this question, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) convened an “independent task force,” a group of thirty experts, including Commentary contributors Aaron Friedberg and Arthur Waldron. The group has just issued its findings under the title: U.S.-China Relations: An Affirmative Agenda, A Responsible Course.

Like all such documents, the report has its share of compelling and tedious moments. The most revealing section of this one is its nine dissents, a record-breaker for the consensus-seeking CFR. (For the record, Friedberg and Waldron are among the dissenters.) In his demurral, Winston Lord, U.S. ambassador to the PRC under Ronald Reagan, complains that the report “seriously understates the harshness of the Chinese political system and the backsliding in recent years on political reform and human rights.”

Coming at the same issue from another direction is Maurice Greenberg, the insurance tycoon and former chairman of AIG, who in his own dissent takes issue with what he calls the report’s “persistent urging of democracy in China.”

Greenberg, who has been making a mint in China, notes that since 1975 when he began to travel there, he has seen “unbelievable change,” especially in the economy. The key to it all, he maintains, is political stability, which we should not endanger. The United States should therefore “stop pressing China to adopt a democratic political system–that is up to them. If it is to occur, it has to be their own choice.”

I do not know what this particular logical fallacy is called in Latin, but one is left wondering who is the “them” that Greenberg is referring to here? And if democracy in China “has to be their own choice,” who is going to be making this choice? The Chinese people or their self-appointed and self-perpetuating Communist leaders?

But let’s not be in a rush to solve this difficult conundrum. The Chinese market is huge. There’s money to be made.

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