On My Soapbox, With Cliches About China

If we are to see the Olympics as (good heavens, it hurts to type this) China’s big coming-out party, then China cannot hide behind the “developing country” defense much longer. When the international community pressures China on the environment or human rights, China needs to play by the rules for the big kids.

I wrote this post for Beijing Olympics FAN! yesterday about Spielburg withdrawing his support from the Olympics, and I got the chance join in the discussion on BBC’s World Have Your Say program last night (podcast link in a bit). I do think China should use it’s famed soft power with Sudan, which is exactly Spielburg’s point, BUT I think Spielburg’s protest isn’t the right way to do it, and can easily cause more harm than good.

I worry that average Chinese people will see Spielburg’s protest either as an insult to Chinese decision-making or an anti-Chinese Westerner, not a stand for human rights. When World Have Your Say discussed this on their site, someone wrote in that criticisms of China are only made by Westerners afraid of China’s rise to power.

It’s a bit of a cliche (although not quite as bad as calling the Olympics China’s coming-out party) to say that the Chinese are face-conscious, but I really feel that any political statement that embarrasses or insults China won’t have a good result. In the US, we love to criticise our government, we love to talk about what those idiots in Washington should do.

But criticism of Chinese decisions — especially criticism from an outsider — is much more likely to cause hurt, anger and offense. A foreign protest/boycott won’t cause China to suddenly change it’s policies, and I’m actually afraid that it will have the opposite effect, and create more tension in relations between China and the US.

Another cliche about China is that everything you want involves bargaining. To effect change, Western activists and politicians need to keep haggling with China, not just walk away.

Edit: Other (more eloquent) China bloggers on the same theme:

OneManBandWidth sounds off on the Olympics boycott
Imagethief on dissent in China and the US
Mad Dogs And Englishmen

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0 Responses to On My Soapbox, With Cliches About China

  1. M. Chau says:

    The Spielburg-bailing-out thing is nothing more than a flash in the pan. I bet when the Olympic comes along, hardly anyone will still remember the incident. The whole thing will blow over in no time. But he should have carried out what he signed up for. From my very limited knowledge and interest of the Darfur situation, it seems that the rebels who are fighting the government are not willing to negotiate because they are getting so much outside supports.

  2. Anonymous says:

    good points meg

    i am also so tired of “china’s coming out party” in the news and on tv

  3. Anonymous says:

    While US is pumping free oil in Iraq they don’t like China buying Sudan’s oil. If US sends its troop to Sudan then they’ll pump oil from there as well leaving China with nothing. What else do you expect from America?

    Regarding Spielburg.. Probably he is just expressing his discontent that nowadays Ang Lee gets more Oscars then he.

    Time changes, uh? Chinamen used to go to America to get any job. Now Americans go to China for job opportunities.

  4. Meg says:

    “Regarding Spielburg.. Probably he is just expressing his discontent that nowadays Ang Lee gets more Oscars then he.”

    I remember saying something about any protest that embarrasses China won’t be taken seriously, and will seem like Westerners who are jealous of China’s rise.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m so annoyed at the way the west is exploiting the olympic games to demonize China. I’m a Chinese Singaporean, born and brought up in Singapore. The arguments of so-called human rights supporters, especially the ones yelling at China on Dafur, smack of self-righteousness and arrogance that western civilization is inherently superior to chinese civilization. This is seen quite clearly in that nothing China does is ever good enough for the west. That infuriates me. The tone of these protests are sounding more anti-chinese race than anti-PRC communist party. As an allergic reaction, I’ve become anti-west.

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