Commentary Magazine


Topic: the Olympics

Yet Another Dialogue with China

This week, China agreed to resume its human rights dialogue with the United States.   Beijing broke off the discussions in 2004 after Washington sponsored a U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution attacking the Chinese government’s record.  “We are willing to have exchanges and interactions with the U.S. and other countries on human rights on a basis of mutual respect, equality and non-interference in each others’ internal affairs,” said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, after meeting with Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday in the Chinese capital.

China has, off and on, maintained human rights “dialogues” with about a dozen nations.  Beijing always acts as if its participation in these discussions is a favor to the international community, but they actually benefit Chinese autocrats.  The dialogues permit them to maintain the appearance of progress without having to make concessions of any lasting significance.

China, under President Hu Jintao, is suffering under a crackdown that has now lasted a half decade.  The political system in 2008 is more repressive than it was in 1998.  And there is even less room today for political discussion than in 1988.  The Communist Party, incredibly, is moving backward.

This regression coincides with China’s drive to host the Olympics.  In 2001, at China’s final presentation before the International Olympic Committee’s vote, Liu Qi, the head of the country’s bid committee, said “I want to say that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will have the following special features: They will help promote our economic and social progress and will also benefit the further development of our human rights cause.”  It has not worked out that way, however.  As Robin Munro, a veteran human rights campaigner, noted this week, the Chinese government has made a “mockery of promises made.”  Worse, the intensifying crackdown could “become the new normal” in China after the Games are over.  

“China is at a special, historic stage of its development,” said Wang Baodong, a Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, responding this week to criticisms of his country’s human rights record.  “We do not deny that there are a lot of problems.”  Wang is correct that this is an especially crucial time for China.  While Beijing’s leaders are pushing the country back, the Chinese people are surging forward.  There is more societal change in China than in any other nation at this moment.

The human rights dialogues, if they have any positive effect at all, show the Chinese people that their government fails to meet acceptable standards of conduct and therefore brings shame on their nation.  As such, the discussions promise the same benefit as the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.  Yet the dialogues with China won’t have the same impact until Western presidents and prime ministers are willing to be as forthright about China’s communists as they were about the Soviet ones.

This week, China agreed to resume its human rights dialogue with the United States.   Beijing broke off the discussions in 2004 after Washington sponsored a U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution attacking the Chinese government’s record.  “We are willing to have exchanges and interactions with the U.S. and other countries on human rights on a basis of mutual respect, equality and non-interference in each others’ internal affairs,” said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, after meeting with Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday in the Chinese capital.

China has, off and on, maintained human rights “dialogues” with about a dozen nations.  Beijing always acts as if its participation in these discussions is a favor to the international community, but they actually benefit Chinese autocrats.  The dialogues permit them to maintain the appearance of progress without having to make concessions of any lasting significance.

China, under President Hu Jintao, is suffering under a crackdown that has now lasted a half decade.  The political system in 2008 is more repressive than it was in 1998.  And there is even less room today for political discussion than in 1988.  The Communist Party, incredibly, is moving backward.

This regression coincides with China’s drive to host the Olympics.  In 2001, at China’s final presentation before the International Olympic Committee’s vote, Liu Qi, the head of the country’s bid committee, said “I want to say that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games will have the following special features: They will help promote our economic and social progress and will also benefit the further development of our human rights cause.”  It has not worked out that way, however.  As Robin Munro, a veteran human rights campaigner, noted this week, the Chinese government has made a “mockery of promises made.”  Worse, the intensifying crackdown could “become the new normal” in China after the Games are over.  

“China is at a special, historic stage of its development,” said Wang Baodong, a Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington, responding this week to criticisms of his country’s human rights record.  “We do not deny that there are a lot of problems.”  Wang is correct that this is an especially crucial time for China.  While Beijing’s leaders are pushing the country back, the Chinese people are surging forward.  There is more societal change in China than in any other nation at this moment.

The human rights dialogues, if they have any positive effect at all, show the Chinese people that their government fails to meet acceptable standards of conduct and therefore brings shame on their nation.  As such, the discussions promise the same benefit as the Helsinki Final Act of 1975.  Yet the dialogues with China won’t have the same impact until Western presidents and prime ministers are willing to be as forthright about China’s communists as they were about the Soviet ones.

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She Said What?

Michelle Obama today said that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction.”

Really proud of her country for the first time? Michelle Obama is 44 years old. She has been an adult since 1982. Can it really be there has not been a moment during that time when she felt proud of her country? Forget matters like the victory in the Cold War; how about only things that have made liberals proud — all the accomplishments of inclusion? How about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991? Or Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s elevation to the Supreme Court? Or Carol Moseley Braun’s election to the Senate in 1998? How about the merely humanitarian, like this country’s startling generosity to the victims of the tsunami? I’m sure commenters can think of hundreds more landmarks of this sort. Didn’t she even get a twinge from, say, the Olympics?

Mrs. Obama was speaking at a campaign rally, so it is easy to assume she was merely indulging in hyperbole. Even so, it is very revealing.

It suggests, first, that the pseudo-messianic nature of the Obama candidacy is very much a part of the way the Obamas themselves are feeling about it these days. If they don’t get a hold of themselves, the family vanity is going to swell up to the size of Phileas Fogg’s hot-air balloon and send the two of them soaring to heights of self-congratulatory solipsism that we’ve never seen before.

Second, it suggests the Obama campaign really does have its roots in New Class leftism, according to which patriotism is not only the last refuge of a scoundrel, but the first refuge as well — that America is not fundamentally good but flawed, but rather fundamentally flawed and only occasionally good. There’s something for John McCain to work with here.

And third, that Michelle Obama — from the middle-class South Shore neighborhood of Chicago, Princeton 85, Harvard Law 88, associate at Sidley and Austin, and eventually a high-ranking official at the University of Chicago — may not be proud of her country, but her life, like her husband’s, gives me every reason to be even prouder of the United States.

Michelle Obama today said that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction.”

Really proud of her country for the first time? Michelle Obama is 44 years old. She has been an adult since 1982. Can it really be there has not been a moment during that time when she felt proud of her country? Forget matters like the victory in the Cold War; how about only things that have made liberals proud — all the accomplishments of inclusion? How about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991? Or Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s elevation to the Supreme Court? Or Carol Moseley Braun’s election to the Senate in 1998? How about the merely humanitarian, like this country’s startling generosity to the victims of the tsunami? I’m sure commenters can think of hundreds more landmarks of this sort. Didn’t she even get a twinge from, say, the Olympics?

Mrs. Obama was speaking at a campaign rally, so it is easy to assume she was merely indulging in hyperbole. Even so, it is very revealing.

It suggests, first, that the pseudo-messianic nature of the Obama candidacy is very much a part of the way the Obamas themselves are feeling about it these days. If they don’t get a hold of themselves, the family vanity is going to swell up to the size of Phileas Fogg’s hot-air balloon and send the two of them soaring to heights of self-congratulatory solipsism that we’ve never seen before.

Second, it suggests the Obama campaign really does have its roots in New Class leftism, according to which patriotism is not only the last refuge of a scoundrel, but the first refuge as well — that America is not fundamentally good but flawed, but rather fundamentally flawed and only occasionally good. There’s something for John McCain to work with here.

And third, that Michelle Obama — from the middle-class South Shore neighborhood of Chicago, Princeton 85, Harvard Law 88, associate at Sidley and Austin, and eventually a high-ranking official at the University of Chicago — may not be proud of her country, but her life, like her husband’s, gives me every reason to be even prouder of the United States.

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Spielberg Withdraws from the Olympics

Yesterday, Steven Spielberg announced that he had severed his role as artistic advisor to this year’s Summer Olympics, which begins in August. “I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual,” he said in a statement. “At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.”

China is committing no such crimes in Darfur. It is, however, providing crucial material support to the government in Khartoum as well as diplomatic help, especially in the U.N Security Council. That government, in turn, is sponsoring the Janjaweed militia, which has rightly been accused of genocide. So far, about 200,000 to 400,000 people have died according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Spielberg, by refusing to continue his work on the opening and closing ceremonies, implicitly says that participation in the Olympics is tantamount to supporting the atrocities, including mass murder and rape, taking place in western Sudan.

In the wake of the famed director’s withdrawal, Human Rights Watch has asked others to think about their personal responsibility. “These influential players should be prepared to show the steps they are taking to address the worsening rights climate in China, or they risk being tarnished by a human rights debacle,” said Minky Worden, the group’s media director, yesterday.

Worden raises a fundamental issue: At what point does personal participation imply guilt? Beijing’s response is predictable: “As the Darfur issue is neither an internal issue of China, nor is it caused by China, it is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair for certain organizations and individuals to link the two as one,” the Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement yesterday. Beijing’s position, however reasonable it seems on its face, is unconvincing simply because the tragedy in Darfur would not be occurring were it not for China.

Today, there is a growing sentiment that China is too damn close to the Janjaweed militia. On Tuesday, 25 individuals, including Nobel peace laureates, called on Chinese President Hu Jintao to take steps to end the slaughter sponsored by Khartoum. Whether Beijing likes it or not, people are starting to make the connections between death in Darfur and the celebrations in Beijing. It is high time we examine our national—and personal—responsibility for China’s acts because we are enabling the Chinese regime through our policies of engagement.

“Repression in China is on the rise, and Olympic sponsors, governments, or world leaders—especially those planning to attend the Games—can’t pretend otherwise,” said Worden. At least Prince Charles is on the side of the angels. He has said that he will not attend the Games. President Bush, however, is going to Beijing in August for the spectacle. Regrettably, he has tried to lessen his personal responsibility by saying that he is doing so only as a sports fan. As Spielberg has just shown us, however, that is not possible in today’s climate. Let me quote Bush to Bush: you’re either with the Chinese autocrats or against them.

And if you’re with me, you insist that your leaders in Washington not associate themselves with ugly events taking place in Darfur by supporting the extravaganza in Beijing.

Yesterday, Steven Spielberg announced that he had severed his role as artistic advisor to this year’s Summer Olympics, which begins in August. “I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual,” he said in a statement. “At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.”

China is committing no such crimes in Darfur. It is, however, providing crucial material support to the government in Khartoum as well as diplomatic help, especially in the U.N Security Council. That government, in turn, is sponsoring the Janjaweed militia, which has rightly been accused of genocide. So far, about 200,000 to 400,000 people have died according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Spielberg, by refusing to continue his work on the opening and closing ceremonies, implicitly says that participation in the Olympics is tantamount to supporting the atrocities, including mass murder and rape, taking place in western Sudan.

In the wake of the famed director’s withdrawal, Human Rights Watch has asked others to think about their personal responsibility. “These influential players should be prepared to show the steps they are taking to address the worsening rights climate in China, or they risk being tarnished by a human rights debacle,” said Minky Worden, the group’s media director, yesterday.

Worden raises a fundamental issue: At what point does personal participation imply guilt? Beijing’s response is predictable: “As the Darfur issue is neither an internal issue of China, nor is it caused by China, it is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair for certain organizations and individuals to link the two as one,” the Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement yesterday. Beijing’s position, however reasonable it seems on its face, is unconvincing simply because the tragedy in Darfur would not be occurring were it not for China.

Today, there is a growing sentiment that China is too damn close to the Janjaweed militia. On Tuesday, 25 individuals, including Nobel peace laureates, called on Chinese President Hu Jintao to take steps to end the slaughter sponsored by Khartoum. Whether Beijing likes it or not, people are starting to make the connections between death in Darfur and the celebrations in Beijing. It is high time we examine our national—and personal—responsibility for China’s acts because we are enabling the Chinese regime through our policies of engagement.

“Repression in China is on the rise, and Olympic sponsors, governments, or world leaders—especially those planning to attend the Games—can’t pretend otherwise,” said Worden. At least Prince Charles is on the side of the angels. He has said that he will not attend the Games. President Bush, however, is going to Beijing in August for the spectacle. Regrettably, he has tried to lessen his personal responsibility by saying that he is doing so only as a sports fan. As Spielberg has just shown us, however, that is not possible in today’s climate. Let me quote Bush to Bush: you’re either with the Chinese autocrats or against them.

And if you’re with me, you insist that your leaders in Washington not associate themselves with ugly events taking place in Darfur by supporting the extravaganza in Beijing.

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Britain’s Olympic Kowtow

Chinese Olympic officials said yesterday they supported bans on athletes engaging in political protests. “I hope that the Olympic spirit will be followed and also the relevant IOC regulations will be followed in every regard,” said Sun Weide, spokesman of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. Sun’s statement came in the midst of an uproar over the attempted gagging of British athletes.

On Saturday, the Mail, the London paper, reported that athletes qualifying for the British Olympic team would be required to sign a contract preventing them from speaking out on “any politically sensitive issues.” Athletes not agreeing to the ban of the British Olympic Association would not be allowed to travel to Beijing. Those who broke the ban while at the Olympics would be shipped home on the next available plane. On Sunday, British Olympic chief Simon Clegg said, in the face of widespread condemnation, that he would review the wording of the contract and agreed that the proposed language “appears to have gone beyond the provision of the Olympic Charter.”

The Olympic Charter forbids demonstrations or propaganda at Olympic sites, but the British ban would have gone further, especially if viewed in the context of China, where most topics are considered “political” and virtually everything is “sensitive.” A British competitor could have found himself on the first flight home for commenting on, for instance, polluted air or tainted food.

Up to now, only Belgium and New Zealand have prohibited political opinions from their Olympic athletes. Clegg’s hasty retreat means that, unlike in 1938 when the British soccer team was forced to give the stiff-armed Nazi salute in Berlin, the British will not, in the words of former sports minister David Mellor, be “sucking up to dictators.”

Chinese dictators, no matter how obsessive or efficient, will be unable to stage a politics-free Games on their own. They will need help in suppressing democracy advocates, Tibetan activists, and Falun Gong adherents, and so far some Western nations seem willing to lend a hand. Unfortunately, it does not appear that we can engage China’s rulers without being compromised by them. At least there is now one reason we can thank the craven and utterly reprehensible British Olympic Association. Simon Clegg and his colleagues show us that sometimes the price of good relations with bad leaders is much too high.

Chinese Olympic officials said yesterday they supported bans on athletes engaging in political protests. “I hope that the Olympic spirit will be followed and also the relevant IOC regulations will be followed in every regard,” said Sun Weide, spokesman of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. Sun’s statement came in the midst of an uproar over the attempted gagging of British athletes.

On Saturday, the Mail, the London paper, reported that athletes qualifying for the British Olympic team would be required to sign a contract preventing them from speaking out on “any politically sensitive issues.” Athletes not agreeing to the ban of the British Olympic Association would not be allowed to travel to Beijing. Those who broke the ban while at the Olympics would be shipped home on the next available plane. On Sunday, British Olympic chief Simon Clegg said, in the face of widespread condemnation, that he would review the wording of the contract and agreed that the proposed language “appears to have gone beyond the provision of the Olympic Charter.”

The Olympic Charter forbids demonstrations or propaganda at Olympic sites, but the British ban would have gone further, especially if viewed in the context of China, where most topics are considered “political” and virtually everything is “sensitive.” A British competitor could have found himself on the first flight home for commenting on, for instance, polluted air or tainted food.

Up to now, only Belgium and New Zealand have prohibited political opinions from their Olympic athletes. Clegg’s hasty retreat means that, unlike in 1938 when the British soccer team was forced to give the stiff-armed Nazi salute in Berlin, the British will not, in the words of former sports minister David Mellor, be “sucking up to dictators.”

Chinese dictators, no matter how obsessive or efficient, will be unable to stage a politics-free Games on their own. They will need help in suppressing democracy advocates, Tibetan activists, and Falun Gong adherents, and so far some Western nations seem willing to lend a hand. Unfortunately, it does not appear that we can engage China’s rulers without being compromised by them. At least there is now one reason we can thank the craven and utterly reprehensible British Olympic Association. Simon Clegg and his colleagues show us that sometimes the price of good relations with bad leaders is much too high.

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Not So Kosher

If, like me, you are waiting to eat in Beijing’s first kosher restaurant—opened in anticipation of hordes of Jewish spectators at the Olympics—you probably hope a kosher kitchen is the answer to China’s food safety problems. Come to think of it, the Japanese might hope so, too. Last night’s news in Japan was dominated by a report that at least 10 people had fallen ill after eating pesticide-laced frozen pork dumplings manufactured in China. The news was unclear whether the pesticide was found inside the dumplings themselves, or saturated the inside of the bag in which they were shipped.

As is the case in Japan, this new “threat” to the country has immediately involved the highest levels, with the Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare stating that more needs to be known about the conditions in the Chinese factory that made the dumplings, while executives of the import company that distributed the tainted food flew immediately to China to seek answers. Japanese news stations also traveled to the factory and interviewed local folk who stated that the pork coming out the factory was “not bad.” The news also noted that nearly all the factory’s workers live on the grounds, as is becoming common in factory towns around China. No reaction was given from Chinese officials, but to their credit they did not bar Japanese television crews from filming.

Japan has had its own share of food safety scandals lately, but nothing I’m aware of that includes poisons (rather it’s the mundane variety of re-labeling expired products or using expired ingredients—no one has become sick, as far as I know). What this does show is that China’s vast food export market is still very lightly supervised, and as its exports designed for human consumption grow by leaps and bounds, we are more and more likely to see repeated stories of unsafe products, illnesses, and possibly worse. China will be facing pressures on multiple fronts across the world, and how it reacts will tell us a great deal about the type of global player it is going to be. Meanwhile, make mine hummus.

UPDATE: By the time the Japanese import company’s official arrived, Chinese officials had removed all traces of material from the particular production line and claimed that they found no pesticide in the factory.  It is unclear if they have chosen to stonewall, but the dumplings of course came in sealed packages.

If, like me, you are waiting to eat in Beijing’s first kosher restaurant—opened in anticipation of hordes of Jewish spectators at the Olympics—you probably hope a kosher kitchen is the answer to China’s food safety problems. Come to think of it, the Japanese might hope so, too. Last night’s news in Japan was dominated by a report that at least 10 people had fallen ill after eating pesticide-laced frozen pork dumplings manufactured in China. The news was unclear whether the pesticide was found inside the dumplings themselves, or saturated the inside of the bag in which they were shipped.

As is the case in Japan, this new “threat” to the country has immediately involved the highest levels, with the Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare stating that more needs to be known about the conditions in the Chinese factory that made the dumplings, while executives of the import company that distributed the tainted food flew immediately to China to seek answers. Japanese news stations also traveled to the factory and interviewed local folk who stated that the pork coming out the factory was “not bad.” The news also noted that nearly all the factory’s workers live on the grounds, as is becoming common in factory towns around China. No reaction was given from Chinese officials, but to their credit they did not bar Japanese television crews from filming.

Japan has had its own share of food safety scandals lately, but nothing I’m aware of that includes poisons (rather it’s the mundane variety of re-labeling expired products or using expired ingredients—no one has become sick, as far as I know). What this does show is that China’s vast food export market is still very lightly supervised, and as its exports designed for human consumption grow by leaps and bounds, we are more and more likely to see repeated stories of unsafe products, illnesses, and possibly worse. China will be facing pressures on multiple fronts across the world, and how it reacts will tell us a great deal about the type of global player it is going to be. Meanwhile, make mine hummus.

UPDATE: By the time the Japanese import company’s official arrived, Chinese officials had removed all traces of material from the particular production line and claimed that they found no pesticide in the factory.  It is unclear if they have chosen to stonewall, but the dumplings of course came in sealed packages.

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‘I Was a Prisoner Of War.’ ‘I Saved the Olympics.’

I know it is supposedly a great calling card that Romney ran the Salt Lake City Olympics, but saying it directly after John McCain talked about his time in the Hanoi Hilton might not be the best timing in the world.

I know it is supposedly a great calling card that Romney ran the Salt Lake City Olympics, but saying it directly after John McCain talked about his time in the Hanoi Hilton might not be the best timing in the world.

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A Summit with Singh

Yesterday, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing announced that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will begin a three-day visit to China on January 13. There are long-running border disputes and fundamental disagreements between the Chinese and the Indians. Not one will be settled during the brief moments when Singh actually sits down for talks with his counterparts.

Although the itinerary has yet to be announced, it’s clear that the visit will be filled with a series of high-profile events and made-for-television handshakes. In short, Singh’s sojourn in the Chinese capital will resemble the smiles summit that the Chinese staged for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda late last month. For example, Singh, if early reports are correct, will also address Chinese students at one of Beijing premier universities.

There is no such thing as coincidence when it comes to Chinese diplomacy, at least when relations with China’s big-power rivals are involved. So we need to ask ourselves why Beijing is engaging in content-less diplomacy at this moment. Optimists, of course, will say that the country’s foreign policy is maturing and Beijing wants harmonious relations while it hosts the Olympics. Pessimists—I prefer to call them “realists”—might think that the Chinese are covering their flanks in preparation for misadventure elsewhere in the region. For example, Beijing may be thinking of intensifying pressure on Vietnam—the two countries are already involved in an especially nasty phase of their long-running territorial dispute over the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea. Or perhaps the Chinese are thinking of taking a bite out of Taiwan, such as a quick grab of its outlying islands.

In any event, China is undoubtedly trying to woo Tokyo away from Washington and prevent New Delhi from getting even closer to America. To the extent that China has any grand strategy at this moment, it is to push the United States out of Asia and make itself the unquestioned hegemon there. That means, at a minimum, Washington, in addition to problems elsewhere, needs to think about the next steps toward consolidating its relationship with India. The problems in the Middle East are important, of course, but superpowers never have the luxury of concentrating all their attentions on just one problem or region.

Yesterday, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing announced that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will begin a three-day visit to China on January 13. There are long-running border disputes and fundamental disagreements between the Chinese and the Indians. Not one will be settled during the brief moments when Singh actually sits down for talks with his counterparts.

Although the itinerary has yet to be announced, it’s clear that the visit will be filled with a series of high-profile events and made-for-television handshakes. In short, Singh’s sojourn in the Chinese capital will resemble the smiles summit that the Chinese staged for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda late last month. For example, Singh, if early reports are correct, will also address Chinese students at one of Beijing premier universities.

There is no such thing as coincidence when it comes to Chinese diplomacy, at least when relations with China’s big-power rivals are involved. So we need to ask ourselves why Beijing is engaging in content-less diplomacy at this moment. Optimists, of course, will say that the country’s foreign policy is maturing and Beijing wants harmonious relations while it hosts the Olympics. Pessimists—I prefer to call them “realists”—might think that the Chinese are covering their flanks in preparation for misadventure elsewhere in the region. For example, Beijing may be thinking of intensifying pressure on Vietnam—the two countries are already involved in an especially nasty phase of their long-running territorial dispute over the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea. Or perhaps the Chinese are thinking of taking a bite out of Taiwan, such as a quick grab of its outlying islands.

In any event, China is undoubtedly trying to woo Tokyo away from Washington and prevent New Delhi from getting even closer to America. To the extent that China has any grand strategy at this moment, it is to push the United States out of Asia and make itself the unquestioned hegemon there. That means, at a minimum, Washington, in addition to problems elsewhere, needs to think about the next steps toward consolidating its relationship with India. The problems in the Middle East are important, of course, but superpowers never have the luxury of concentrating all their attentions on just one problem or region.

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China’s Global Truce

On Wednesday, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling on all member states to observe a truce during next year’s Beijing Olympics and the subsequent Paralympic Games. Ancient Greek states halted warfare for the Olympics, and the General Assembly has adopted Olympic truce resolutions since 1993. This year, China sponsored the UN resolution and crowed about it in state media afterward.

This is one Chinese Communist initiative that I endorse heartily. In fact, I like it so much I think the concept should be extended. For example, during these sporting events Beijing could withdraw its support for the Sudanese government and the murderous Janjaweed militia; refuse to sell small arms to Iran so that it can send them to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan; stop its diplomatic backing of Tehran’s atomic ayatollahs and pull back its nuclear technicians in Iran; suspend its assistance to North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Burma; discontinue its campaign of cyber-attacks on other governments; and, if all of this is not too much to ask, take a break from conspiring with Moscow to commit mischief around the world.

Even more important, I suggest that, during the Olympic events next year, the Chinese Communist Party suspend its struggle against the legitimate aspirations of the Chinese people. While the truce is in effect the Party would, among other things, lift all censorship of the media, allow people to assemble and protest, free all jailed dissidents, stop all forced sterilizations and abortions, end the practice of destroying places of worship and beating parishioners, and prohibit local officials from engaging in their normally rapacious behavior.

Under my temporary truce proposal, the Party could resume its malignant practices, both at home and abroad, once the Games are over. Of course, the risk is that the world enjoys the breather so much that the General Assembly decides to ban Beijing’s despotism forever. That is a lot to ask from the UN, but we don’t have to worry. I’m sure the Chinese people would not let the Communists go back to their old way of doing things.

On Wednesday, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling on all member states to observe a truce during next year’s Beijing Olympics and the subsequent Paralympic Games. Ancient Greek states halted warfare for the Olympics, and the General Assembly has adopted Olympic truce resolutions since 1993. This year, China sponsored the UN resolution and crowed about it in state media afterward.

This is one Chinese Communist initiative that I endorse heartily. In fact, I like it so much I think the concept should be extended. For example, during these sporting events Beijing could withdraw its support for the Sudanese government and the murderous Janjaweed militia; refuse to sell small arms to Iran so that it can send them to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan; stop its diplomatic backing of Tehran’s atomic ayatollahs and pull back its nuclear technicians in Iran; suspend its assistance to North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Burma; discontinue its campaign of cyber-attacks on other governments; and, if all of this is not too much to ask, take a break from conspiring with Moscow to commit mischief around the world.

Even more important, I suggest that, during the Olympic events next year, the Chinese Communist Party suspend its struggle against the legitimate aspirations of the Chinese people. While the truce is in effect the Party would, among other things, lift all censorship of the media, allow people to assemble and protest, free all jailed dissidents, stop all forced sterilizations and abortions, end the practice of destroying places of worship and beating parishioners, and prohibit local officials from engaging in their normally rapacious behavior.

Under my temporary truce proposal, the Party could resume its malignant practices, both at home and abroad, once the Games are over. Of course, the risk is that the world enjoys the breather so much that the General Assembly decides to ban Beijing’s despotism forever. That is a lot to ask from the UN, but we don’t have to worry. I’m sure the Chinese people would not let the Communists go back to their old way of doing things.

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Leadership on Taiwan

The time has come for Washington to show some leadership regarding Taiwan’s U.N. membership as the issue gains traction in China and on the island. The Bush administration should propose a way to go forward. Here are some suggestions.

First, we should state clearly that, like the Olympic games, which China is hosting next year, the U.N. is intended to be entirely inclusive. Just as Taiwan will be sending teams to the Olympics, we in Washington think she should also be able to send a delegation to the United Nations. Second, we should indicate that the United States fundamentally supports democracy and human rights for all peoples, including the people of Taiwan. We never intended that nearly thirty years should pass (since our break with Taipei in 1979) during which those people, having made themselves democratic, should be excluded from the international community. Third, we should call on China to join the rest of the world in finding a way forward, so that Taiwan can send a delegation to New York as she will send teams to Beijing. Finally, we should stress that violence and coercion are ruled out. They are simply not options and will be resisted by the United States.

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The time has come for Washington to show some leadership regarding Taiwan’s U.N. membership as the issue gains traction in China and on the island. The Bush administration should propose a way to go forward. Here are some suggestions.

First, we should state clearly that, like the Olympic games, which China is hosting next year, the U.N. is intended to be entirely inclusive. Just as Taiwan will be sending teams to the Olympics, we in Washington think she should also be able to send a delegation to the United Nations. Second, we should indicate that the United States fundamentally supports democracy and human rights for all peoples, including the people of Taiwan. We never intended that nearly thirty years should pass (since our break with Taipei in 1979) during which those people, having made themselves democratic, should be excluded from the international community. Third, we should call on China to join the rest of the world in finding a way forward, so that Taiwan can send a delegation to New York as she will send teams to Beijing. Finally, we should stress that violence and coercion are ruled out. They are simply not options and will be resisted by the United States.

By adopting such a forward-looking position, Washington would escape the trap into which she is now falling, which is serving as China’s enforcer. Since August 27th we have been manifesting a clear double standard with respect to Taiwan, the only explanation for which is fear of China. On that day Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte warned Taiwan about carrying out a referendum—a democratic exercise. Other officials have since joined in (as my previous posts have chronicled). But when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Musharraf expelled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Saudi Arabia, an undemocratic action if ever there was one, the same Deputy Secretary had no comment and praised Pakistan as our friend.

Meanwhile, in Taiwan, various demonstrations brought hundreds of thousands out in favor of votes on the U.N.—and 12,000 pro-China demonstrators out against such a vote. Steam is building up. If Washington does not start leading instead of reacting, case by case, to Chinese demands, trouble lies ahead. China will give us nothing in return for disciplining Taiwan. She will treat it as no more than our duty while taking it as a basis for more extensive future demands. At some point those demands will be more than we can accept. Our passivity will have brought us to a possibly dangerous impasse. Far better to seize the initiative now. Let Washington take the lead in challenging China and the world to find a way that will permit Taiwan once again to be represented in the United Nations.

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Where is Our True Policy?

Is it any wonder the world has difficulty making sense of Washington’s loudly proclaimed support for democracy and freedom? Consider the following: the headline, in the Financial Times of September 8-9, reads “Bush’s fury at [a certain Asian] regime.” Now try to guess which country is the object of his indignation.

According to the report, “President George W. Bush, who is in Sydney, called for the regime to ‘stop arresting, harassing, and assaulting pro-democracy activists for organizing or participating in peaceful demonstrations.’”

The regime in question, meanwhile, has alleged that “external, anti-government groups” were trying to foment uprising and warned that: “The people will not accept any acts to destabilize the nation and harm their interests and are willing to prevent such destructive acts.”

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Is it any wonder the world has difficulty making sense of Washington’s loudly proclaimed support for democracy and freedom? Consider the following: the headline, in the Financial Times of September 8-9, reads “Bush’s fury at [a certain Asian] regime.” Now try to guess which country is the object of his indignation.

According to the report, “President George W. Bush, who is in Sydney, called for the regime to ‘stop arresting, harassing, and assaulting pro-democracy activists for organizing or participating in peaceful demonstrations.’”

The regime in question, meanwhile, has alleged that “external, anti-government groups” were trying to foment uprising and warned that: “The people will not accept any acts to destabilize the nation and harm their interests and are willing to prevent such destructive acts.”

The article could easily be about China. The authorities in Beijing constantly “arrest, harass, and assault” pro-democracy activists and many others, and back up their intent to prevent “acts to destabilize the nation” with massive censorship, internet and cell-phone monitoring, and the deployment of tens of thousands of secret police and paramilitary People’s Armed Police. And they regularly blame “foreign forces” for what are actually indigenous Chinese demands for freedom.

But of course the country in question is not China. It is Burma, which has an ugly military regime that China supports. Yet in spite of the fact that the behaviors of the regimes in Burma and China are nearly identical, the United States regularly scolds and sanctions the Burmese regime, while embracing and engaging the government in China.

So angry is Bush with Burma that he has “excluded its military leader from a planned summit between the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Texas.” Yet a day before announcing this, the same President Bush had a cordial talk with (unelected) Chinese President Hu Jintao. Unlike Burmese pariah Than Shwe, Hu was welcomed warmly in Washington last April. In Sydney two days ago, Mr. Bush accepted Hu’s invitation to attend the Olympics next year—in drum-tight Beijing, from which city many dissidents and activists have already been expelled, a year ahead of the games.

To confuse things even further, on August 27, evidently facing not-so-veiled military threats from China, top Bush administration officials administered unprecedented public scoldings to the elected government of Taiwan for planning a referendum about applying to the United Nations. But then last Thursday Bush seemed to reverse that position in a speech that called Taiwan’s evolution to democracy “one of the great stories of our time.”

Where is our true policy in this muddle? If we genuinely value democracy, why are we so ambivalent and self-contradictory about its practice in Taiwan? If dictatorships are best treated by engagement and dialogue, as with China, then why doesn’t the administration reach out to Burma to break its diplomatic isolation? But if pressure and quarantine are the right approach to autocracies, as our Burma policy suggests, then why doesn’t Mr. Bush rethink his plan to visit Beijing? The administration should strive for more consistency in its policies.

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Bush’s Games

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.

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.

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Dirty Olympics

Next year, at eight seconds after 8:08 on the evening of August 8, the most important event in the most populous country in the world will begin. At that moment, the Olympics in Beijing will start—and the People’s Republic of China will announce its arrival in the century it believes it will own.

Today, to mark the one-year countdown to the XXIX Olympiad, Beijing staged a grandiose nighttime ceremony in Tiananmen Square, the symbolic heart of the Chinese nation and the scene of mass murder in 1989. China’s Leninists are good at organizing gargantuan rallies glorifying themselves, and this extravaganza, which included International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, was no exception. The anthem for the event was “We’re Ready.”

Will Beijing’s leaders be ready a year from now? Amnesty International, in a report issued yesterday, urged Communist Party officials to stop repressing the Chinese people. In an accompanying statement, Amnesty said “time is running out for the Chinese government to fulfill its promise of improving human rights in the run-up to the Games.” The report came out on the same day as one from Human Rights Watch and another from the Committee to Protect Journalists. On Monday in the Chinese capital, Reporters Without Borders unfurled a banner showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs. Beijing authorities detained and roughed up journalists who had staged the protest. Yesterday, activists at the Great Wall displayed a large banner reading “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008.” They were detained as well.

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Next year, at eight seconds after 8:08 on the evening of August 8, the most important event in the most populous country in the world will begin. At that moment, the Olympics in Beijing will start—and the People’s Republic of China will announce its arrival in the century it believes it will own.

Today, to mark the one-year countdown to the XXIX Olympiad, Beijing staged a grandiose nighttime ceremony in Tiananmen Square, the symbolic heart of the Chinese nation and the scene of mass murder in 1989. China’s Leninists are good at organizing gargantuan rallies glorifying themselves, and this extravaganza, which included International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, was no exception. The anthem for the event was “We’re Ready.”

Will Beijing’s leaders be ready a year from now? Amnesty International, in a report issued yesterday, urged Communist Party officials to stop repressing the Chinese people. In an accompanying statement, Amnesty said “time is running out for the Chinese government to fulfill its promise of improving human rights in the run-up to the Games.” The report came out on the same day as one from Human Rights Watch and another from the Committee to Protect Journalists. On Monday in the Chinese capital, Reporters Without Borders unfurled a banner showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs. Beijing authorities detained and roughed up journalists who had staged the protest. Yesterday, activists at the Great Wall displayed a large banner reading “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008.” They were detained as well.

China was not ready to host the Games in 2001, when they were awarded, and it is not ready now. The Beijing Olympics organizing committee is already trying to lower foreign expectations. “We can’t please everybody,” said spokesman Sun Weide. In response, the International Olympic Committee should live up to its principles and think about criticizing the Chinese government. President Rogge, however, has consistently maintained that Beijing’s detestable political system is none of his organization’s business. “Any expectations that the International Olympic Committee should apply pressure on the Chinese government beyond what is necessary for Games preparations are misplaced, especially concerning sovereign matters the IOC is not qualified to judge,” he recently said. Some activists argue the IOC should take away the Olympics from China. I say keep the Games in Beijing to maintain the spotlight on the Communist Party—and a complicit International Olympic Committee.

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The Totalitarian Olympics

Since the awarding of the Olympics to China in July 2001, no major world city has changed more than Beijing, with its massive new construction of roads, bridges, terminals, hotels, and other facilities promised for the Games. According to official estimates, the Chinese government will spend $37 billion to get ready for next August. That is almost four times what Athens disbursed for its summer Olympics, which was by far the most expensive ever staged. Yet the 2008 Games may end up costing China over $100 billion, after taking into account the relentless building and “beautification” campaigns currently demolishing “illegal urban villages.”

Last week, the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions issued a report claiming that 1.25 million Chinese citizens have been displaced from their homes in advance of the 2008 Olympics. Another quarter million or so will be forcibly moved between now and the opening ceremony. All told, an estimated 512,100 households and 1,483,300 people in Beijing will be affected. Some have received no notice of eviction and others no compensation.

China has denied the accusations. “The report is sheer groundless [sic],” said Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry spokeswoman. According to her, every relocated person received compensation and no one was forced to leave Beijing. The government maintains that only 6,037 households have been resettled since 2002.

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Since the awarding of the Olympics to China in July 2001, no major world city has changed more than Beijing, with its massive new construction of roads, bridges, terminals, hotels, and other facilities promised for the Games. According to official estimates, the Chinese government will spend $37 billion to get ready for next August. That is almost four times what Athens disbursed for its summer Olympics, which was by far the most expensive ever staged. Yet the 2008 Games may end up costing China over $100 billion, after taking into account the relentless building and “beautification” campaigns currently demolishing “illegal urban villages.”

Last week, the Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions issued a report claiming that 1.25 million Chinese citizens have been displaced from their homes in advance of the 2008 Olympics. Another quarter million or so will be forcibly moved between now and the opening ceremony. All told, an estimated 512,100 households and 1,483,300 people in Beijing will be affected. Some have received no notice of eviction and others no compensation.

China has denied the accusations. “The report is sheer groundless [sic],” said Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry spokeswoman. According to her, every relocated person received compensation and no one was forced to leave Beijing. The government maintains that only 6,037 households have been resettled since 2002.

But the forced relocation of residents is just one small part of the story. The most disturbing aspect of China’s preparation for the Games is its employment of mass-mobilization techniques and strict social controls—the essential tools of totalitarian governance. Some of the government’s efforts resemble Singapore-style silliness—forcing school children to cheer for other nations’ teams, prohibiting cab drivers from dyeing their hair red or wearing big earrings, and banning sarcasm in shops. The capital’s municipal government has even divided the city into five areas and decreed that each section be repainted in a uniform hue.

Other measures are less trivial. Beggars will be evicted ahead of Olympiad XXIX. About a million cars will be forced off the road during the Games to clean the air, and heavy industry will be shut down for months beforehand for the same purpose. Worst of all, during this politically sensitive period, the Communist party has launched a severe crackdown. Over the past four years, there has been a marked deterioration of human rights and a virtual halt to political liberalization.

The awarding of the Olympics to China was supposed to speed up the liberalization of Chinese society. Perhaps one day we will see that it did. But so far, the government has only become more repressive. Just ask the million-and-a-half Chinese being forced from their homes.

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Bookshelf

• Ty Burr’s The Best Old Movies for Families: A Guide to Watching Together (Anchor, 375 pp., $16.95 paper) is a prime contender for the Why-Didn’t-I-Think-of-That Book Award of 2007. I desperately wish I’d written it, though I doubt I would have done nearly as good a job. In addition to being the film critic of the Boston Globe, Burr is the father of two young daughters, and he decided to introduce them to old movies when they were still toddlers. This wise, amusing book tells how he did it, and how you can do the same thing.

The Best Old Movies for Families is the sort of book that doesn’t need to be reviewed, at least not in the conventional sense. Merely to quote from it is to show how good it is:

Today I look at the movie offerings afforded my kids and am stunned into depression at the pandering narrowness. . . . Some films aimed at children are good—excellent, even. Pixar: I rest my case. But all of them—and I do mean all of them—arrive in theaters sold out, prepackaged, and co-opted. A modern family film can’t get greenlit for production without marketing tie-ins planned in detail and in-house licensing executives kicking the tires to discern how “toyetic” it is. That’s a real word, by the way. Yes, it makes my flesh crawl, too.

So what’s the alternative? The Best Old Movies for Families contains a series of age-appropriate, shrewdly annotated lists of studio-system films that Burr has successfully road-tested on his daughters. Some of his choices may seem a bit over-ambitious at first glance, but he claims that all of them went over: “To a few of my acquaintances I am still known as The Man Who Showed The Seven Samurai to His Kids. And They Liked It.” More representative of his sensible yet imaginative approach is this list of five toddler-friendly classics: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Bringing Up Baby, Meet Me in St. Louis, Singin’ in the Rain, and Stagecoach.

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• Ty Burr’s The Best Old Movies for Families: A Guide to Watching Together (Anchor, 375 pp., $16.95 paper) is a prime contender for the Why-Didn’t-I-Think-of-That Book Award of 2007. I desperately wish I’d written it, though I doubt I would have done nearly as good a job. In addition to being the film critic of the Boston Globe, Burr is the father of two young daughters, and he decided to introduce them to old movies when they were still toddlers. This wise, amusing book tells how he did it, and how you can do the same thing.

The Best Old Movies for Families is the sort of book that doesn’t need to be reviewed, at least not in the conventional sense. Merely to quote from it is to show how good it is:

Today I look at the movie offerings afforded my kids and am stunned into depression at the pandering narrowness. . . . Some films aimed at children are good—excellent, even. Pixar: I rest my case. But all of them—and I do mean all of them—arrive in theaters sold out, prepackaged, and co-opted. A modern family film can’t get greenlit for production without marketing tie-ins planned in detail and in-house licensing executives kicking the tires to discern how “toyetic” it is. That’s a real word, by the way. Yes, it makes my flesh crawl, too.

So what’s the alternative? The Best Old Movies for Families contains a series of age-appropriate, shrewdly annotated lists of studio-system films that Burr has successfully road-tested on his daughters. Some of his choices may seem a bit over-ambitious at first glance, but he claims that all of them went over: “To a few of my acquaintances I am still known as The Man Who Showed The Seven Samurai to His Kids. And They Liked It.” More representative of his sensible yet imaginative approach is this list of five toddler-friendly classics: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Bringing Up Baby, Meet Me in St. Louis, Singin’ in the Rain, and Stagecoach.

Burr’s choice of films is wholly secular yet morally aware—he comes across as exactly the kind of father you’d like to have as a next-door neighbor. At the same time, his approach is essentially aesthetic in its orientation:

With any luck, my daughters will be able to go through life lacking that fear of old movies—and, much more to the point, old culture—that keeps so many children and their parents locked in an eternal, ahistorical Now. The only way to comprehend Now, of course, is to understand Then. More than almost any other art form, movies show the way back.

I wish that last sentence weren’t true—I grew up on old books, not old movies—but I suspect that Burr has it right.

Permit me to quote one more passage from The Best Old Movies for Families, just because I like it so much:

Modern kids are raised with the understanding that people don’t spontaneously burst into song at crucial moments in their lives. And isn’t that a horrible thing, to remove such evidence of grace on earth from their belief system? Of course there are people who start tap-dancing at unexpected moments, or improvise a tune while plucking lyrics from the air. They’re called children, and if you spend any time with them, you’ll witness life as a musical forty times an hour.

This one’s a must.

• I like well-written books that tell me everything I want to know about a given topic without going overboard. David Clay Large’s Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936 (W.W. Norton, 401 pp., $27.95) fills that bill impeccably. Large’s book, which is based on newly available primary sources, is concise but sufficiently thorough and written with a sharp sense of irony—an appropriate commodity, given the fact that virtually everything about the Hitler-hosted 1936 Olympics was ironic. Americans, for instance, still pride themselves on the fact that Jesse Owens won a gold medal in 1936, but did you know that none of that year’s Olympic trials could be run in the Deep South because Southern states wouldn’t allow blacks to run alongside whites? Or that the Germans staffed Berlin’s Olympic village with state-subsidized prostitutes who were under orders to sleep only with Aryan contenders? You’ll learn all this and much more from Nazi Games, and you’ll also learn quite a bit about the making of Olympia, Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda film about the 1936 games.

Even if you’re not a sports buff, you’ll find Nazi Games an absorbing read—and, given the fact that the next Olympiad will be held in Beijing, a depressing one.

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Exporting Repression

Is it wrong to help authoritarian states repress their own citizens? Of course. But the question is rarely posed in Washington these days, which is what made last week’s hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs so notable.

In a brief exchange, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a fiery Republican from Florida, questioned Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte about American exports of security-related articles and services to China for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Negroponte told her that the State Department is the lead agency in the American government for “supporting security for the Olympics,” and that there is a small task force in our embassy in Beijing working on this matter. He promised that in the future he would consult with the House committee, but said he knew nothing more about the issue.

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Is it wrong to help authoritarian states repress their own citizens? Of course. But the question is rarely posed in Washington these days, which is what made last week’s hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs so notable.

In a brief exchange, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a fiery Republican from Florida, questioned Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte about American exports of security-related articles and services to China for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Negroponte told her that the State Department is the lead agency in the American government for “supporting security for the Olympics,” and that there is a small task force in our embassy in Beijing working on this matter. He promised that in the future he would consult with the House committee, but said he knew nothing more about the issue.

Mr. Negroponte should have done his homework. For starters, legislation enacted in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre prohibits American companies from exporting crime-control or detection equipment to China. In other words, they cannot sell handcuffs, helmets, and shotguns. But the Commerce Department, which is supposed to enforce the sanctions, has gutted them by adopting a very narrow definition of security equipment. Police gear is out, but Oracle, Cisco, and Sybase are allowed to sell modern information technology that China needs to trace, track, and arrest drug dealers.

Representative Tom Lantos, the committee’s chairman, tried to draw a bright line between helping the Chinese prevent terrorist acts at the Olympic Games and contributing to the suppression of free speech by the Communist party. But that isn’t possible. If the U.S. helps Beijing track terrorists, it is also helping Beijing round up anyone else it pleases—not just drug dealers but dissidents and democracy activists too.

The U.S. does receive some benefit by cooperating on security matters with China. We win the right to screen American-bound containers on Chinese soil, get help in solving run-of-the-mill crimes, and obtain assistance in the global struggle against terrorists. Yet Beijing gets at least as much as it gives, especially in terms of help tracking down elements perceived as enemies by the regime.

The issues involved are complex, but Washington policymakers have not yet had honest conversations with the American people about the consequences of our assistance to China. As Representative Ros-Lehtinen suggests, the costs may end up being far too high.

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