Friday, August 15, 2008

Boycott Follow Up

One major area overlooked when I previously wrote about reasons behind the Chinese boycott was their alleged involvement in selling small arms to Sudanese rebel groups. They are linked to supplying these rebel groups with weapons that have been used to massacre and maim hundreds of thousands in the war torn country of Sudan. People were and still are outraged about the prevalence of human rights violations (and the relationship to other such violations) by the Chinese government; but, the tune of many government officials and superstar athletes changed leading up to the Olympics.

Despite the possibility for a platform opposed to China’s treatment of their citizens (most visibly in Tibet) and their alleged supply of weapons to Darfur in exchange for oil many are viewing the Olympics less for social change and more for sport.

Recall that when I last posted, EU Vice President stated that the very least the EU would do was to protest the opening ceremonies. However, when looking for news reports about who boycotted the opening ceremonies the only major world leader absent from the opening ceremonies for the purpose of boycott was the Prime Minister of Poland, Donald Tusk. Something must have happened because Mr. Tusk was not the only world leader talking boycott.

Similarly, an excellent piece was done recently on Outside the Lines piece where Lebron James and Kobe Bryant were questioned about their sudden retreat from a previously position of no-toleration with respect to China’s human rights record. And, the consensus was, “This is sport –not politics.” That sentiment was echoed by the recent release of Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympics that profiles 21 athletes that had once-in-a-lifetime dreams slip from their hands because the US government thought a boycott would be effective in our opposition to the crawl of Communism. In hindsight the boycott was not effective. And, the author claims that the people that hurt the most were those athletes not the USSR.

Returning to Mr. Tusk, did his being absent have a significant effect on China’s decisions? (The question of whether a singular Christian’s actions though not effective on earth are celebrated in heaven may be a different story and other perspectives are welcome). Or, was his decision based upon the dissatisfaction with China’s lack of compassion towards its people? Some may even say that he could extend his protest. Poland allows Chinese goods to be imported and consumed by its citizens. Should Poland boycott China, not with their mere absence from the opening ceremonies, but really hit them in the wallet with embargo? That is a decision with broader implications. While the Polish people may say, “That’s okay, Donald can do whatever he wants,” because it does not affect them, in the case of embargo it actually will affect them. (We may want to talk about embargo later, so stay tuned)

The reason this post was such a long time coming is that I could not find any literature regarding boycotts and their historical effectiveness. However, if I am to play armchair historian it seems that the only protests that were impactful were those joined with sacrifice and suffering on the part of the protesters. Even then this conjecture is weak. Consider the Civil Rights Movement and Apartheid where both groups of protesters were subject to brutal police beatings that stirred the fence riders around them and throughout their country. But, the question of whether somebody else opting not to go the Olympic ceremonies has an impact --- the answer seems to be no.

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