Monday, April 16, 2007

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China's fifteen months of vulnerability

Seth Weinberger posts about how Mia Farrow was able to pressure the Chinese regime into pressuring the Sudanese government on Darfur. Steven Spielberg is involved. What really matters, however, is that the Chinese leadership will do just about anything to ensure that the Beijing Olympics are a smashing success.

I've blogged before about how the Olympics will affect China's domestic policies. This example suggests that China's behavior between now and the summer of 2008 will nor necessarily reflect their long term foreign policy.

Bear that in mind over the next 15 months.

Question to readers -- given that China will be uniquely vulnerable for a short while, which shift in Beijing's foreign policy would you most like to see?

posted by Dan on 04.16.07 at 10:06 PM


We in the US should realize that we are not the only ones who see a short term Chinese vulnerability. Kim Jong II in North Korea may see it too, or may realize that once the Olympics are over his hand is much weakened.

We should also realize that a successful Olympics in China may be in our national interest as well as China's. All the tourists and outside media could have a transformative effect on China. And do we not want to work for more cooperative relations with China on the many international issue we have in common than pressuring them on ones that separate us. The US-China relationship is the most important relationship of the 21st century. It should be approached with care, and pressuring efforts should have balancing cooperative efforts.

I would welcome Hollywood discovering the importance of China to our future, and the importance of providing the next generation of American with the skills to engage China constructively. Here in my state of Oregon, less than one percent of high school students study Mandarin, less than two percent of public university students study Mandarin, and only 35 out of almost 80,000 university students studied abroad in China in a recent academic year. These are not the statistics of a state, nor nation, prepared for the 21st century. Hollywood could get behind changes in US education to produce more US Mandarin speakers so we can engage China across a whole range of issues.

I share a concern for Darfur, but also for global warming, for renewable energy sources, for preventing pandemics, for fighting terrorism, and for peace in the Middle East. China is key to all these issues, not just one.

posted by: Dave Porter on 04.16.07 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

Given the assumption that China's policies during this short window will be reversed later if they conflict with China's long-term goals, the obvious answer is that only irreversible changes should be sought by the international community.

Specifically, the release of individual dissidents and human rights activists from Chinese detention would create a lasting benefit. Right now, China effectively prevents the outside world from listening to many dissidents. If they are released, the West gains not just individual instances of justice, but a broader story about the state of China. Since narratives are uniquely necessary to impelling action in Western democracies, freeing these dissidents will feed the long-term movement for real change in China.

posted by: Erasmus on 04.16.07 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

Definitely the Sudan. I think you make a very good point about China bending a bit on foreign policy as that is a bit easier for them to swallow than doing something drastic domestically that might weaken the CCP.

posted by: Dan on 04.16.07 at 10:06 PM [permalink]

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