Friday, January 25, 2008

Shaming China? – My Response to Mr. Kristof

Nicholas Kristof, op-ed columnist for the New York Times, yesterday began a "shaming China" effort with his op-ed piece, "China’s Genocide Olympics," as he believes this is "the best way to make progress on Darfur."

When Mr. Kristof calls the Beijing Games "genocide Olympics," he mentions no words about the 1936 Berlin Olympics, in which the United States took part. That one was the true "genocide Olympics," as Hitler tried to use it to promote his agenda of ethnic cleansing. There is no compatibility between the natures of the Games in Berlin and Beijing. This fact makes Mr. Kristof's name-calling a bit laughable.

Further, I am surprised that Mr. Kristof, who writes about China often, is so ignorant of Chinese mentality, or even basic human nature.

Speaking of human nature, here's a small but illustrative incident:

One day, when I finished shopping in the local Stop & Shop, several heavy bags in my hands, my exit was blocked. A middle-aged man was standing in the middle of the narrow doorway talking on a cell phone. I waited for a few moments. He glanced at me but did not make a move. I finally said, "Excuses me, why do you stand in the door?" The man turned to me and said, "Fuck you, foreign lady!"

His wife, who was still in the store with a child, rushed over and pushed him out of my way. I heard the wife say, "She's right. You shouldn't stand in the door." The husband replied, "But she could have asked nicely!"

Apparently my accusing tone toward the man did not help. It only angered him.

A country is much like a person, only its reaction could be longer lasting and have higher impact. China has a long history resisting foreign insults and threats. With the nationalism sentiment rising higher than ever in China right now, branding the Beijing Olympics will only run counter to Mr. Kristof 's stated intentions.

I, too, want a better situation in Darfur. China's selling weapons to Sudan is disturbing, but in order to stop it, first we need to know why they did it. Is it because the Chinese government is evil in nature? If so, Mr. Kristof, you certainly can't shame an evil being by calling it evil.

The US government also sells weapons to many countries, probably more than China does. The difference between the two, as far as I can see, is that the US government's motivations are political, while China's are economic. A reader who commented on Mr. Kristof's blog suggests that China is after Sudan's oil – a plausible reason. In either case, the US and China are selling weapons out of self-interest.

Weapons are for killing. Any country selling weapons to any other country is a shame, be it the U.S. or China.

A more effective approach to restrain international weapon sales might be to establish an international treaty, much like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. If so, the first question that comes to mind is, would the United States sign such a treaty?

By the way, I am not an advocate of the Beijing Olympics, for reasons I give in another journalism piece, "Beijing Olympic Boycott Over Burma Will Only Alienate Chinese People."


Maryanne Stahl said...

very thoughtful piece, Xujun.

and I apologize on behalf of that piggish American man and our piggish American president and piggishness in general. or I would, but that would be insulting to pig!

Xujun Eberlein said...

Maryanne, you are one of the many open-minded Americans that make this country great. I salute you!

Huimin said...

Dear Xujun, it's so wonderful that I could get to know and read your articles on this blog. I appreciate your insistence on objectivity, rantion and justice by saying that "Weapons are for killing. Any country selling weapons to any other country is a shame, be it the U.S. or China." You're so thoughful and I will keep reading on. By the way, I'm Chinese and Sichuanese in Chengdu. I'm so lucky that Bob Eberlein provided me such an amazing link in his Email. Thank you!

Xujun Eberlein said...

Nice to see you here, Huimin. And thanks for commenting. Any news from Chengdu? Any news about Tibet? Are you a Vensim user? You can contact me through my website if you'd like.