(Image from the San Francisco Chronicle)
In a piece published today New York Times op-ed columnist, Nicholas Kristof, addresses the link between China’s foreign policy goals and the continuing genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur. Hundreds of thousands have been killed or have died from starvation, disease and malnutrition, and millions have been displaced, whether internally or as refugees abroad, for which, Kristof argues, China bears some moral culpability. Kristof is not alone in this view and the NGO, Olympic Dream for Darfur, has decided to try to do something about it by establishing the “Genocide Olympics” campaign, which is meant to shame China into changing its policies toward Sudan.* Will this work? Is it good foreign policy? Is it morally acceptable to mix sport with politics? Remember, there is historical precedent for this type of thing as the United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in retaliation for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Quoting Kristof:
The Beijing Olympics this summer were supposed to be China’s coming-out party, celebrating the end of nearly two centuries of weakness, poverty and humiliation.
Instead, China’s leaders are tarnishing their own Olympiad by abetting genocide in Darfur and in effect undermining the U.N. military deployment there. The result is a growing international campaign to brand these “The Genocide Olympics.”
This is not a boycott of the Olympics. But expect Darfur-related protests at Chinese Embassies, as well as banners and armbands among both athletes and spectators. There’s a growing recognition that perhaps the best way of averting hundreds of thousands more deaths in Sudan is to use the leverage of the Olympics to shame China into more responsible behavior.
The central problem is that in exchange for access to Sudanese oil, Beijing is financing, diplomatically protecting and supplying the arms for the first genocide of the 21st century. China is the largest arms supplier to Sudan, officially selling $83 million in weapons, aircraft and spare parts to Sudan in 2005, according to Amnesty International USA. That is the latest year for which figures are available.
As the highlighted portion of the quote above implies, China is acting in a fundamentally realist manner, eschewing moral concerns in order to increase its power and security.
*Please do not refer to Sudan as the Sudan, or to Ukraine as the Ukraine, but Sudan and Ukraine, respectively, as they are no longer regions within colonial empires, but are independent states in their own right. Adding the in front of their country names is anachronistic.