I am interested to see that the usually non-partisan Reporters sans frontieres (Reporters without borders) is campaigning quite hard for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics.
One can’t really argue with the campaign’s slogan “China: the world’s largest prison for journalists and cyber-dissidents”, though Baghdad and Kabul are probably more dangerous, perhaps even Moscow and the former Soviet Union.
I must say though, that I agree with the RSF.
There’s an interesting global dynamic in play today – Beijing has been given the Olympics, in part recognition of the place of China as a powerhouse in the global economy. On the other hand, most of us in the west are very well aware of the Chinese regime’s poor human rights record. Most recently we’ve been reminded of this because of the anti-independence crackdown in Tibet. The Dalai Lama is no saint but he’s more popular in the west than Chinese premier Wen Jibao.
But recently we’ve also seen an explosion in Chinese nationalist sentiment among mainlanders abroad as they have been mobilised to defend China’s honour and show the flag in San Francisco, Canberra and Japan. The progress of the Olympic torch has been dogged by protests. The torch didn’t make it to Auckland, but the pro-China protest earlier today saw thousands of Chinese students and others driving and marching around the CBD with banners and placards proclaiming that Tibet “always was” and “always will be” part of China.
20 years ago most Chinese living outside the mainland would have been very anti the Stalinist regime in Beijing, the turn around in modern China is remarkable and interesting. Today they are complaining about anti-Chinese bias in the western media.
The Beijing regime is doing a good job of harnessing patriotism and nationalism and it’s quite ironic that it’s happening at the same time as Australia and New Zealand celebrate their own jingoistic orgy of patriotic sentiment, the 93rd anniversary of Galipolli – ANZAC Day.
It seems that in some detail the media did get aspects of the Tibet protests wrong – such as identifying Nepalese police as Chinese soldiers – but over all the repression in Tibet is real and the Chinese government is in the wrong.
And the anti-Chinese stance of the western media might also backfire. On one hand there’s the need to support ideals of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly; on the other there’s the economic reality of China’s growing weight in the world economy (signified by the recent Free Trade Agreement signed by New Zealand) and then there’s the whole bullshit propaganda offensive around the “apolitical” Olympic ideals.
A rats’ net of contradictions for everyone.
In closing, this is really the truth of the propaganda war so far
It might be facing an Olympic opening ceremony boycott and mounting criticism from abroad, but the government has largely succeeded in mobilizing its 1.3 -billion people into a unified force, giving it the domestic legitimacy it craves for its survival.
“Thanks to the protests, the Chinese Communists may have consolidated support by its citizens for years to come,” says Roland Soong, a shrewd observer of Chinese politics who runs a blog analyzing the Chinese media. “For the Chinese Communists, the responses from Western governments, media and citizens are immaterial,” he wrote in his blog. “The paramount goal of the Chinese Communists is to retain control of China, and therefore it is the response from the Chinese citizens that matter.” (from a piece by Geoffrey York in the Globe and Mail newspaper)
This is why I support a boycott of the Olympics, the Chinese regime gains legitimacy from hosting the Games and even when there are protests abroad, the grip of the propaganda state apparatus is such that millions of ordinary Chinese are fooled, cajoled and/or bullied into falling in with their government and extending their denial of the reality. A bit like how the media in Australia and New Zealand deal with ANZAC Day, complete with poppies and the solemnity of the “Last post”.
“Lest we forget”, indeed.