Only Bush Can Go to China

Cross-posted at Taylor Marsh.

Note:  I lived and worked in Shanghai, China for five years before returning to the United States three weeks ago.  This was originally posted at Taylor Marsh, where I am covering current issues in China--international politics, culture, human rights, and more.  Given that this became an issue here yesterday, I thought I would cross-post my diary and have a discussion about this emerging power.

In May 2007, President Hu Jintao invited President Bush to attend the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.  This spring, in the heat of the primary election, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and, eventually, Senator Obama called on the president to decline the invitation to protest the human rights situation and the recent Beijing crackdown in Tibet.  Several human rights groups also issued calls for a boycott of the opening ceremonies, but ultimately, George Bush accepted the invention.

If the United States wants to maintain any influence in China, President Bush made the right decision.  Declining the invitation may have earned President Bush the affection of human rights advocates, but it would have done nothing to help the Chinese people.  Outside pressure is not going to change the human rights situation.  Beijing is well that its trading partners are not willing to take any measures that put their own economies at risk. Change must come from within.

The Chinese people know that human rights is a problem in China.  They are aware that the government censors the internet--and many are able to get around it.  They know that the Communist Party and the government it controls are corrupt.  They also know that the media are controlled by the government. An empty gesture from the United States won't inform the people of something they already know, nor will it encourage them to rise up and demand change from the government.  What it will do is deeply insult the Chinese people, who are deeply suspicious of the west.

Long before the economic reforms that brought China and the West closer together, China suffered what is known in China as the Century of Humiliation. Western countries, beginning with the British smuggling opium in the 1830's and 1840's, and later Japan, used their superior militaries and advanced technology to force unfair treaties on Beijing.  A series of Qing emperors were forced to open ports to foreign traders, create special economic zones for foreign powers, and open their borders to western missionaries and businessmen, who were given extraterritoriality, the right to live under the laws of their own country, rather than the laws of China.  Sovereignty was not fully restored until the Communists won their civil war over the Nationalists (who fled to Taiwan) in 1949 and did what centuries of emperors could not--unify the country.  The chaos of that period may have long ago ended, but the memories and the bitterness remain.

Since the early 1980's, hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty.  A private sector has emerged and now accounts for 70% of GDP.  At the height of central planning, as recently as 30 years ago, Chinese people were not even allowed to choose their own jobs.  They were assigned by Beijing.  So from the perspective of the majority of the Chinese people, Beijing--and the Communist Party--have done a good job running the country.  The horrors of the Cultural Revolution are blamed on Chairman Mao and a group of advisers known as the "Gang of Four".

Our support for independence in Tibet and Taiwan and criticism of China's human rights record is seen--even by educated, middle class Chinese--as attempts to again weaken China (by dividing her) and undermine the sovereignty of the government.  It's not lost on the Chinese people that the western powers continue to support the "renegade" government in Taiwan, even allowing the Republic of China to hold China's seat on the UN Security Council until 1971.  A coalition of developing countries friendly to Beijing forced the transfer of China's seat to the People's Republic of China.

This spring, when western governments criticized the military crackdown on protests in Tibet, government censors loosened restrictions on internet access.  Access to BBC News was restored so the Chinese people could see the criticism of the government's crackdown and get angry at the western media.  Access to Youtube was briefly disrupted until the government realized that pro-Beijing users could post videos of Tibetans attacking Han Chinese residents of Lhasa and their businesses.

The result?  The Chinese people I talked to--including my Australian-educated, multi-lingual Taiwanese boyfriend--said the western media was biased.  The criticism of Beijing's crackdown only intensified the nationalism of the Han Chinese and their support for the governments efforts to suppress the revolt by the Tibetan "terrorists." Patriotic Chinese organized boycotts and held protests outside Carrefour supermarkets throughout China after it was learned that a minority shareholder of the French supermarket chain had donated money to a pro-Tibetan independence group.

Had President Bush declined the invitation, it would have been seen as an enormous insult, an attempt to embarrass the Chinese people, for whom the Olympics are a source of national pride.  Boycotts of American imports and antipathy toward the thousands of Americans living and working in China may have followed and the relationship between China and America would forever have been tarnished.  By attending the opening ceremonies, President Bush has given President Hu Jintao and the Chinese people face.  In Asian culture, giving and saving face is central to preserving and enhancing relationships.

In the long run, the decision to honor the Chinese people during their moment under the sun will reap more benefits than cheap political theatrics.

Tags: china, George W. Bush, history, human rights, imperialism, Olympics, Presidential Politics (all tags)

Comments

36 Comments

Tips/flames???

I will be posting more about the China I know.  I hope you all enjoy!

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 05:04PM | 0 recs
Thanks, Drew...

Good insight. Honestly, I've been on the fence regarding the Olympics this year. On one hand, I think Mia Farrow, Steven Spielberg, and many more human rights advocates have every reason to declare this "The Genocide Olympics", as we're honoring a nation that oppresses its own people as it completely ignores the tragedy it's helpiing to further in Darfur. But OTOH, I don't know how we help the situation by completely isolating China.

There was no easy decision on the Beijing Olympics IMHO, and you very much remind me of that.

by atdleft 2008-08-09 06:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Thanks, Drew...

I understand the desire to stand up against genocide and oppression.  I really do.

But I think that the only way we will ever have influence with the Chinese people is if we show respect for them.  President Bush gave the Chinese people face by attending the Olympics.  That will pay dividends.

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 06:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Tips/flames???

Please do. I would be very interested in hearing more of your views on China. Rec

by Politicalslave 2008-08-10 06:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China
Cross-posted at Taylor Marsh.

This is basically like saying "cross-posted at Stormfront."  It's a mindless hate site.
by username 2008-08-09 05:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

Thank you for that insightful comment.  Please don't forget your tinfoil hat on your way out the door.

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 05:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

So you're willing to defend Taylor Marsh's behavior during the primaries?  Do go on...

by username 2008-08-09 05:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

The primaries are over.

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 05:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

Those who forget the past deserve to repeat it.

And those who acted like shrieking imbeciles deserve to lose their credibility.

by username 2008-08-09 05:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

If you want to have a primary flame war, please write your own diary.

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 05:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

If you want to cross-post from a hate site, please at least do the courtesy of not linking to it.

by username 2008-08-09 05:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

As I said, if you want to start a primary flame war, you are entitled to do that.  Please have the courtesy to do so in your own diary.

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 06:06PM | 0 recs
You know what?

I visited TM maybe three times during the primaries and never posted there. I thought there were too many loonies lurking. But if psychodrew says Taylor Marsh is supporting Obama now, I say you cut her a little slack. Maybe she didn't control some of the things that were said on her website, but that's not unprecedented. Look at Jerome, who still allows that repulsive homophobe yellowdem to post here.

Does that make this a gay bashing site?

Get your priorities straight. TM is working to elect Obama, as are the rest of us.

by sricki 2008-08-09 06:39PM | 0 recs
Enough already!

The primaries are OVER. Give it up. Taylor's supporting Obama now, and she's gotten a LOT of s--t from "PUMA" McTrolls for doing so. So what, are all of us Hillary Clinton Democrats now second-class "racist, hateful, idiot" citizens in your eyes? If so, then you have the problem... NOT us.

by atdleft 2008-08-09 06:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

Yeah, she said some ridiculous things.  Needlessly, and in a way that I didn't see how she could unlight the fuse, I thought.  But the primaries are over.

And it's not a hate site.  And cut her some slack.

by Jess81 2008-08-09 10:15PM | 0 recs
great diary drew!

ignore that flame baiters.

by canadian gal 2008-08-09 06:17PM | 0 recs
Re: great diary drew!

Thanks, CG.

My new strategy is to politely decline combat.

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 06:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

Thank you for your insights, I'm looking forward to learning more!

by Ellinorianne 2008-08-09 06:18PM | 0 recs
Fascinating diary!

My knee-jerk reaction was to assume there was no acceptable option other than boycotting. This gives me quite a different perspective.

by sricki 2008-08-09 06:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Fascinating diary!

The Chinese people really do like Americans.  They really do.  They don't like our government--and I would say most American's don't like Beijing.  But they really do like Americans.

This event will help our relationship with China.  Giving the Chinese people face further endears us to them.  It will pay dividends in the long run.

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 06:48PM | 0 recs
I'd bet this hurts McCain

that Bush is there. Now, Americans can't even get away from him during the Olympics. They always show Bush when he's there, like when Phelps just beat the World Record. Its like a free Obama commercial.

by Lakrosse 2008-08-09 06:36PM | 0 recs
Re: I'd bet this hurts McCain

I wanted to throw my shoe at the TV when I saw him on the screen.

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 06:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

Nice diary. Still not sure how I feel about China, but I look forward to reading more of your insights.

by LakersFan 2008-08-09 06:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

Thanks.

What I had to do when I moved there was learn how to separate the Chinese people and culture from the Communist Party.  It can be hard to do, especially when people have such admiration--no joke, admiration--for Beijing.

This is an event for the people of China.  I can't overstate the amount of pride that people have for these games.

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 06:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

That's just the conversation I was having this morning. I'm not fond of their government, but I know the Chinese people are so proud of the country they have built together and they are not evil. (But that's basically the same thing the rest of the world thinks about the U.S. these days.)

As silly as it sounds, the interview with Yao Ming (yes, it's all about basketball for me) at the end of the opening ceremonies really brought the point home that for the Chinese people this is so huge, and so important, and we really shouldn't want to deny them this moment in their history.

by LakersFan 2008-08-09 07:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

Thank you for your perspective on China. It is easy to make broad strokes on a country, when in fact things are usually much more complex.

by Hollede 2008-08-09 07:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

Other people do it to us.  I don't how many time I've heard people--mostly Europeans--call us imperialists.

by psychodrew 2008-08-09 07:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

That's rich.

by Hollede 2008-08-09 10:45PM | 0 recs
Perhaps if this was earlier in

his administration there may have been a point to his attending or not attending. At this point, whit the level of credibility that he enjoys I honestly don't think it matters if he went or not. No one is really paying much attention to him per se, and when they do he is either goofing with volleyball players or looking bored at the parade of nations.

I tend to favor an engagement process so agree with the spirit of what you are saying though.

I was a bit ambivalent about the former US gold medalist who had his visa pulled because he was planing to go and protest. On one hand I understand his position, but on the other, he was not an athlete who was participating so China had a perfect right o deny entry for whatever reason they wanted.

by notedgeways 2008-08-09 09:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

My thoughts on the opening ceremony...
Didn't see it...
Didn't have to..
I've see films of the 1936 Olympics..

How spectacular was the tribute to MAO?
Oh..they skipped over that?

How about
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6inWKFKv9 UA

jist sayin' ya know

by nogo postal 2008-08-09 10:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

Mao wasn't mentioned during the Opening Ceremonies.  He's respected by the Chinese people because he was able to unite the country (which the emperors, the warlords, and the Republic of China failed to do).  The horrors of the Cultural Revolution the famine of the Great Leap Forward--the full details of which few Chinese people really know--are blamed partially on Mao.  The say that he was 70% right, 30% wrong.

The cult of personality that you would observe in North Korea for Kim Il-sung and Kim Jung-il would not be found in China for Chairman Mao.

My boss in Shanghai spent seven years in the Heilongjiang province during the Cultural Revolution.  I have another colleague whose family was sent to Xinjiang.  I know plenty about political repression in China.

by psychodrew 2008-08-10 07:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

This was a very interesting diary Drew.  Highly rec'd.

In some ways liberals can be just as guilty as conservatives of advocating one-size-fits-all solutions to international problems.  It's important to evaluate each situation on its merits and not just boycott for the sake of protest, without considering whether the result will be helpful or unhelpful.

by Steve M 2008-08-10 06:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

" I know plenty about political repression in China."

How many of your relatives were killed during the"great leap forward"?

Are you in China now with unlimited access to the net?
Are all the people you know in China have unlimited net access now?

Do you have any personal stories given your extensive China background on the full military force used in the "Square" and how this would not happen now?

If there are no protests...is this because everyone is happy? ,,,, or because of fear and repression?

No offense..but I look at the reality that is happening right now as opposed to someone expanding their limited person experience as something we should take seriously...

by nogo postal 2008-08-10 11:05AM | 0 recs
No offense.

But you don't seem interested in discussing any information is not consistent with your beliefs about China.

If you had read the diary carefully, you'd know that I no longer live there.  If you followed the news about China carefully, you'd know that there are protests in China EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK.

If you aren't capable of civil discussion, I ask you to ignore my diaries in the future.

by psychodrew 2008-08-10 01:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

I agree that Bush attending the opening ceremonies and meeting with Chinese leaders was the right decision. However, with the crisis in Georgia, I think he needs to come home and figure out a US response to the crisis.

by Zzyzzy 2008-08-10 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Only Bush Can Go to China

I commented in one of the boycott the Olympics diaries earlier. It was a flat basic statement that I would not be watching the Olympics this year because of Tibet and the pollution issue in China. I still stand by that. This is not against the Chinese people. I routinely support the Iranian people, but I do not support their government. I definitely support the American people, even though I am absolutely opposed to the current presidential administration in the United States of America. I would currently boycott the Olympics if they were being held in the US for the same reasons I will not be watching the Olympics in China.

I personally believe that the Olympics should not be used to inflate a rotten political system. I would be horrified if the US were hosting the Olympics this year, as it be condoning on a world stage what we are doing in the Mideast and western Asia. We all need to do better on a world scale.

On this note I actually do not have a problem with bush going to the Olympics, as his absence would be a tremendously hypocritical insult to China. I am not even advocating that the US officially boycott of the Olympics. I do not think that the US has credibility to sit in judgment of China at this time under this psuedopresident.

by Hollede 2008-08-10 12:41PM | 0 recs

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