Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Most Western countries are on the brink of making a political, social or other stand on China. There appears to be some wavering for or against presence at the coming Olympics in Beijing. France has publicly stated that it is debating whether or not to go, while other countries are quietly awaiting public sentiment’s sway. The essence of the confusion and collision on positioning is being displayed this week in New Zealand. New Zealand is signing a free trade agreement with China, yet Peter Dunne, one of its Members of Parliament, is refusing to go to Beijing for the upcoming signing ceremony in protest on behalf of Tibetan people. The incomprehensible part, … Dunne supports the agreement. If, through the lens of his principles, he believed that China was in violation of anyone’s rights, why make a deal? That confusion is pervasive across the West. Why is there so much disorientation?

China has seen an unprecedented surge in its industrialization in the compacted cycle of a single generation. Somehow it has found a way to become the source. You want furniture manufactured more cheaply so that you can increase margins? China will build a factory to make it. Need to satisfy your desire for fish to supplement your diet? China will raise them in one of thousands of ponds, as it satisfies 70% of world demand for farmed fish. Your taste buds and gastronomic explorations demand diverse varieties of foods and spices on a regular basis? China will grow them. On occasion, its capacity gets expanded by outsourcing to other Asian countries who welcome the work. While it chokes on the cloud of its own growth, China feeds the European and North American demand for all things material. “But wait. What about it’s suppression of freedom of public demonstration?” “Never mind, we’re not spending $5,000 on a computer, get it made in China and get the price down to under $1,000.” “But China’s rivers are so polluted they are killing farmers who die of cancer from toxin exposure.” “So? They’ll clean it up, now is that 63” flat-screen TV in yet?” Conflicted? We’re all conflicted, including China.

China will succumb to its own public’s pressure for a reduction on the environmental impact of its development. It has no choice. The Chinese population will, in whatever ways it can, appeal for cleaner air and water. Self preservation will lead authorities in Beijing to implement measures and technologies that will bring the answers. The West also has no choice. The current economic downturn in America is conspicuoulsy timely. The lull is forcing some reduction in consumption, and giving the world a moment to recover from the breakneck pace of the recent past. It would be unrealistic to expect standards of living in the West to decrease, however, it is not unrealistic to implement restraint on consumption. Our own air has been patient, but would appreciate the clarity, and China’s rivers would welcome any relief.

So how are we to feel when we watch demonstrations being suppressed in Tibet? Should we be embarrassed into a boycott of the Olympics? Like it or not, Tibet is solidly under China’s control and has been since 1950. This is not about to change.

Is the avalanche of reporting on the demonstrations in Tibet aimed at devising some freedom for Tibetans, or perhaps outright independence? Or is it simply a resenting repercussion against China for its financial success through the past twenty years? Do the Olympics provide a visible platform to take a dig at China’s human rights record? China’s current confidence is hardly flinching in reaction. Some of its spokesmen have gone so far as to threaten Western leaders with unspecified retaliations. They don’t need to be specific, just making them reads well back home. From here however, the threats are reminders that the West has become disquietingly dependent on this new power that it barely understands, … somewhat akin to the uneasy reliance on light sweet crude from the Middle East. Such realizations awaken the mind.

China isn’t to be feared, although the Chinese people should be respected for what they have achieved. Some half billion people in China now enjoy new levels of affluence that our consumption has helped provide, and it is incumbent on the West that dialogue continue in as open and friendly relations as can be stimulated. The people of China have embraced market reforms in their drive to eradicate poverty. Taking confrontational positions only tests pride and stimulates the spread of nationalism and egocentric reactions. That never ends well. The positive trend that has flourished, particularly in the past decade, signals continued interaction, education, and debate enhanced through powerful new tools as the internet. Opened minds and spirits cannot be stifled. The process is irreversible.

China is preparing spectacular ceremonies for the Olympics that will in all likelihood overshadow all the foregoing by some measure. The people of China will demonstrate, as well as showcase the best of the human spirit. These opening and welcoming doors are a long distance and vastly different in disposition from the China of fifty years ago, and the portal will in time lead to an even more open society. Boycotting these Olympics is not a positive statement, nor is it genuine. Attend, watch, and enjoy.


  1. China is not the enemy of the westerners, biased and banal views stem from the RED USSR era triggered every conflict today. It's just the prejudice, few westerners really understand China and Chinese. Confrontation has no reason to continue. Cooperation and understanding between both sides are the only way to have a promising future for all the people.

  2. Agreed.

    If we are so brilliant at PR, why is it not intelligently and creatively applied to create more positive perspectives of the West?