Foreign Policy Blogs

Boycotting the Olympics? How about Boycotting your SUV?

(Hummer H6 Player Edition is a $103,000 "Super SUV," six-wheeled with a horse power of 325hp and torque of 365 lbs-ft)

Darfur and the Olympic games. China is a key player in both, but rather than throwing a blanket over both issues to determine cause-effect and prescribe a solution, we need to be more careful about how we are classifying these relationships.

East vs. West Models of Economy. The Chinese model of market-based economic development has always been a "natural, inward-focused growth as opposed to the unnatural trade-driven growth of Europe, which relied on the expropriation of the raw materials of the rest of the world.*" Although China has benefited from the exploitation of subordinate classes and countries, it achieved as much merely playing to the level of the league it was drafted into. 

During the Mao era, China experienced social achievements, particularly in literacy and healthcare, that worked to lay the foundation for the economic growth the country has recently experienced. Before the late imperial China was defeated and forced to open its doors to trade with West, China's economic strategy was based on self-improvement and sought growth organically, from what its own soil had to offer. 

Once strong-armed for its tea, silk, and porcelain, these assets have long since been replaced with manufactured goods, cheap labor, and oil. Western colonists have been credited with introducing industrialization to East Asia, but now China is to blame for pursuing the resources it needs to sustain the survival of its people, and the growing demands of world.

I can't help but feel that China is acting as a natural global stabilizer, passing down savings to poorer nations who cannot afford to support the luxuries and extravagance of the American way of life. Since its economic rise, China is able to offer poorer societies attractive alternatives to trade and investment*.

Currently, as China works with Sudan to secure an oil stream from the Gulf, Americans are quick to cry foul, label the 2008 Olympics as the "Genocide Games," and attribute China's boom to a "Red Storm Rising."

The Oil Crisis. Just as the US taught China to find success as a globally-competitive trader, it could take the time to educate China on prioritization of human rights and energy trade. How is the US presence in Iraq any more forgivable than China's interest in Sudan? China's reason for its relationship with Sudan is no more obscured than the ambiguity surrounding why American families are still missing their husbands, mothers, brothers, and daughters.

On top of its link to Sudan through arms and oil, China is securing liquid gold that the US is losing out on. By aggressively seeking out oil sources in Africa and the Middle East, "with countries hostile to the United States, such as Iran and Sudan," Americans are armed with all the reason in the world to chastise China for edging out the US for oil resources / trading with frenemies / usurping its position as World Economic Leader enabling genocide activity in Darfur.

Not to mention that the economic impact a growing China has on American income has been predicted to be surprisingly modest (imports of oil are still less than 4 percent of national income*), given the US propensity for increasing its income through technological advance. Moving forward, this means that assuming that oil prices double and Americans continue to burn through oil at the same rate, the hit to the American economy is recoverable in less than two years of normal growth.

On average, Americans consume the equivalent of six gallons of gas per person per day. Americans also drive comparably large cars (some of them de-commissioned military luxury vehicles) and air-condition enormous homes (at an average of 900 square feet per child)*. These are the same Americans that are responding to a poll in the Washington Express, which asked "Should the US boycott the Beijing Olympics to protest human rights violation?" 55% of the respondents answered yes.

The Olympics Games. President Bush, British PM Gordon Brown, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are all confirmed to attend the 2008 Olympic gala opening ceremony on August 8. Political leaders themselves are refusing to politicize the games in the interest of the Olympic spirit.

Outside of the obvious hypocrisy (the US will trade with and borrow from China, but it draws the line at a footrace?), I hardly think it fair to penalize the world's best athletes who have trained to compete at an event couched as a juncture for global celebration.