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Take Note . . .

bocog-sign.jpg Lord Malloch-Brown has spoken up in support of Steven Spielberg‘s decision to quit his post as adviser to the Beijing Oympic Games. By so doing he has forced China’s leaders to “sit up and take notice” and has “focussed minds”. If you don’t believe me it is all here in The Times. Quite. But somehow I don’t see China’s leaders suddenly trembling in their boots and changing their ways simply because a film director has said something negative and walked off in a huff. What he has to say may have some validity, I’m not going to discuss that, but if so why did it take so long [two years] for his conscience to kick into action? China has changed in that time, economically very rapidly, on other scores very slowly but nevertheless the changes made have been positive ones, so China is now a [marginally] better place than when Spielberg first took the job. Could this just be another celebrity jumping on the fashionable protest bandwagon? Or is it because someone told him to? One story circulating is that Mia Farrow had a word in his ear after which the decision was made, but I don’t know if there is any truth in it. The fear is that Mr Spielberg’s action in turning his back on the PRC government and endeavouring to embarrass them may have had a totally negative effect, the opposite of what he wanted, and may even have destroyed some of the goodwill built up by others.

Critics cite various reasons for not holding the games in Beijing but, for one reason or another, all those issues were overlooked and, rightly or wrongly, the decision was taken. Having done that it now seems rather stupid to be proposing to not go to Beijing because of failings in human rights issues, dissatisfaction with how Tibet has been handled, because China is not preventing a civil war in the Sudan [which, incidentally, it didn’t cause and has been going on for 40 years] and a dozen and one other grumbles, all of which we were well aware of when the IOC made its decision.

I’m not overjoyed that the games have gone to Beijing [even less so that they will be in London in 2012, but that’s another story] but I’m not in favour of using the games as a political football and taking cheap shots at the host. Quitting a job goes no where. Staging protests, demonstrations or other street activities, as some have suggested, will achieve nothing and is unlikely to do anyone any credit at all. [I really do hope that there are no street protests or arena demos this summer – not because the demonstrators may not have a point to make but simply because of the repercussions and difficulties this would cause the people of China afterwards. The demonstrators are most unlikely to suffer for their actions.] Direct action, even negative action, may be ok in the west, criticising our government is a national pastime, but in China these things would be seen as inappropriate, and coming from an ousider with no connection with the country, hurtful or insulting. Spielberg will probably be seen, by the Chinese, as someone who intended to cause upset or offence, not as someone concerned with human rights. For the Chinese people ‘face’ is a powerful issue and direct criticism is one sure-fire way of antagonising them and ensuring they are not on your side. There are ways and means of talking to the Chinese people, Chinese businesses and the Chinese government successfully but confrontation isn’t one of them.

There are many other blogs which have a lot more to say about this issue, and far more convincingly I might add, here are a few
Silicon Hutong
Image Thief
One Man Bandwidth
Mutant Palm – what Spielberg should have said
Global Voices – includes translated comments from a Chinese blogger
The Sri Lanka Guardian – includes translated comments from Chinese bloggers


3 Responses

  1. Mia Farrow is out of her mind.

    After so many years of inaction and indifference by the West, we suddenly want to blame Darfur on China? There are plenty of blame to go around, starting with our support of the SPLA and John Garang 10 years ago:


    At any rate the original Darfur mess we started has since been replaced with inter-tribal conflict and herdsmen fighting for territory. Neither Khartoum nor Beijing has much influence over that.

    China is simply a scapegoat.

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