Bush: Skipping Olympics an ‘Affront’ to China
President Bush reiterated his intention to attend the opening ceremonies in Beijing and stated that doing otherwise would be an “affront” to the Chinese people.
President Bush said Sunday he does not feel the need to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics to state his opposition to China’s human rights record. Skipping the event would be an “affront” to the Chinese people, he said.
Bush spoke at a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who announced that he also plans to attend the ceremonies. Other world leaders have decided not to go as a rebuke to China’s violent crackdown on anti-government protests in Tibet.
I don’t feel strongly either way about this issue. My preference would have been not to award China the Olympics, given not only their abysmal human rights record but also the ridiculous level of pollution in Beijing which puts the health of the athletes in danger. Boycotting the opening ceremonies would embarrass the Chinese government and send a message, I suppose, although it would likely just increase their intransigence and make them less cooperative.
What strikes me as interesting in all this is that Bush has rather clearly, in his second term, become much more cognizant that symbolic gestures and rhetoric have an impact beyond the domestic audience. A boycott would likely play well at home, since both the Left and the Right are united in their distaste for the PRC government, albeit for different reasons. But China is the key player in Asia and their cooperation is essential in addressing many issues of strategic concern to the United States in that region. Thinking through the consequences of thumbing our noses at them, therefore, is important.