INTRO: Will the Olypics Change China or will the Olympics changes how the world sees China?
TEXT: For 21 days in August, thousands of athletes, journalists and visitors
from around the world will descend upon Beijing for the Summer Olympics
Games. Unlike other recent Olympics, the lead up to the games in China
has been rife with political expectations and concerns. Many who
supported China's bid to host the Olympics predicted that by meeting
the International Olympic Committee's expectations Beijing would permit
some political reforms. But critics say that instead of becoming more
open, China closing ranks against dissent and criticism under the
banner of nationalism.
A recent poll from the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that 93
percent of Chinese think the Olympics will improve their country's
international image. But Bruce Stokes, a columnist with the National
Journal who worked on the survey, says national pride is so high in
China that any disruption to the games could easily generate resentment
against the West.
"If there're is any problem with the Olympics be it be it pollution, be
it demonstrations, be it even a just failure of the Chinese teams to
perform, and this is covered extensively in the West, this will give
the Chinese public yet another reason to think that the West is out to
International supporters of China's selection to host the Olympics
games have high expectations for the Olympics. Victor Cha is director
of Asian Studies at Georgetown University and formerly a member of
President Bush's National Security Council. He says using the Olympics
to quietly engage the Chinese has been an effective way to press China
to change. He cites as positive developments the restarting of a
bilateral human rights dialogue with the United States, the agreement
to dialogue with the leadership of Taiwan and China's less
obstructionist role at the United Nations when it comes to resolutions
"Many journalists have sort of looked at these changes and talked about
a quiet revolution in Chinese foreign policy. And many of them do
readily admit that the Olympics in many ways created change in China
foreign policy that years of diplomacy could not."
Cha says the pressure on China to further reform will continue after
the Olympics. But Sophie Richardson with Human Rights Watch disagrees.
She says in some ways the Olympics has prompted the Chinese government
to regress, cracking down on protests in places like Tibet and on
China is already retreating from its promise to provide international
journalists with full internet access by blocking politically sensitive
sites that discuss Tibetan succession or human rights in China. After
the media spotlight of the Olympics fades, Richardson and others fear,
things will only get worse.