Foreign media on China
Posted by Maya Alexandri on Sunday, April 15, 2007 at 4:12 PM
What caused this turnabout? The pressure point that Farrow so successfully pushed is the Olympics. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, Farrow tagged the 2008 Games the "Genocide Olympics" and warned Steven Spielberg (who serves as an artistic adviser for the event) that he'd become synonymous with Leni Riefenstahl. Spielberg heeded this warning and sent a letter to the Chinese government, urging them to take action about Darfur.
Without question, the situation in Darfur is appalling and cannot be condemned strongly enough. But Farrow's rhetoric and strategy are shameful. "Genocide" — like "rape" — isn't a word to throw around carelessly, and whatever else might be said of the Chinese government's dealings with the Sudan, China isn't committing genocide in Darfur. Chinese businesses aren't even collaborating — as IBM did with the Third Reich — or profiteering — as Swiss banks did during the Holocaust. What the Chinese are doing is buying Sudan's oil. Farrow therefore condemns China for "bankrolling Darfu's genocide," but even this accusation fails. China isn't giving the Sudan money for the purpose of killing people in Darfur; China is conducting business with a government that uses some of those business proceeds for despicable ends. The distinction is important: responsibility for Darfur must rest squarely on the shoulders of Sudan's government. As such, calling the Beijing Games the "Genocide Olympics" is unforgivably irresponsible.
This irresponsibility is compounded by the complete lack of American credibility on the issue of unsavory positions in the U.N. To take one obvious example, the United States stubbornly and disastrously refused to capitulate to the U.N. consensus that delaying the 2003 Iraq invasion was wise. Criticizing China for taking a similarly foolhardy stance in the U.N. strikes the familiar "unbearable American sanctimoniousness" note. It's not an approach that lays the ground work for effective international collaboration.
Farrow's approach has another drawback as well. Although China's substantial investment in Africa has rightfully generated hand-wringing about the emergence of a Chinese superpower, so far, China's forays into Africa have been blatantly commercial. It has carefully avoided entanglement in the domestic politics of African countries — a decision that makes China's relationship to Africa more analogous to BP's than to that of the United States. As far as U.S. foreign policy is concerned, that situation might be a good one. But telling China, as Farrow does, that "Beijing is uniquely positioned to put a stop to the slaughter" is counter to any policy of limiting Chinese interests to the commercial sphere. Farrow's position endows China with both the power and the responsibility to play policeman to the world and, if the pressure Beijing recently exerted on Sudan has an ameliorative effect, China will enjoy a new confidence in the strength of its international muscle. While any relief, whether prompted by Chinese intervention or otherwise, would undoubtedly be a blessing for the people of Darfur — and one your correspondent hopes they receive — as far as U.S. foreign policy is concerned, a China confident of its power and responsibility to play policeman to the world is a scary prospect.
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