Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Russia and China

So while we watch the Olympics and worry about Russia's latest "Drang Nach Suden" I'd like to have some ballanced coverage here.

LTG and some of us (often me) have frequently gotten into arguments about Russia. LTG is generally very sympathetic to Russia and Russian nationalists' desires for greater influence over neighboring countries (like Georgia, Ukraine, the Baltics, Poland etc). At times he's made the point that we criticize Russia for things that we tolerate from China. OK, let's bash China some too - just to be fair.

China is hoping to use the Olympics to really put their best foot forward. "We've arrived" they want to shout to the world. But there are problems too that keep peaking out of the smoggy haze of Beijing.

First there is the environmental situation in Beijing. The reports are that the air is constantly what LA would call "unhealthful" and often in a state of full stage smog alert. The Chinese government had promised the International Olympic Committee that the air quality in Beijing would be improved by now - didn't quite make it. Even with the emergency draconian crack downs on emissions in area, the reports of the air quality are not good. It makes one think that it could have been far worse! A big reason for the air quality issues in China generally is China's dependence on coal for everything from household heating and cooking to electricity generation. Comparisons to 19th Century Britain are apt. Yuck!

Second, there is the internet and press censorship. When the international press pool got to the Olympic village and tried to log online to work on their stories they found that websites like Amnesty International were blocked by the Chinese government.

Third, there is the Joey Cheeks affair. Joey Cheeks is a former Olympian who is involved in Darfur awareness groups. He was going to attend the Olympics but had his visa revoked just days before he was to leave for China. His main offense was to publicly call for Sudan to observe the traditional Olympic truce (well, Russia and Georgia aren't either so...). Why should China care about this issue? Because China is the major backer of the genocidal regime in Sudan. China has recently been exposed by BBC as violating a UN arms embargo by giving the Sudanese government military aid.


Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

People here in the West are often guilty of not really understanding China and the Chinese. I certainly rarely (never, really) meet people who truly do. Sadly, this lack of knowledge is usually accompanied by vociferous opinion. I think this link would be beneficial in indirectly explaining a bit about the Chinese psyche.

Raised By Republicans said...

Sorry Bert,

I'll give you the same response I give others on this blog when they claim that particular cultural traits of countries explain or excuse bad behavior by their governments....Bull!

People who try to anthropomorphize governments by drawing analogies between mentally ill murderers like Lu Gang and an entire country are what give political research a bad name. It is the worst form of pseudo-intellectual clap trap.

All that said, the fact that China is only recently come out of a long period of economic decline and is only just now emerging out of thousands of years of brutal tyrrany certainly has something to do with the current conditions.

However, we should be very careful of falling into the Pundit-Historian trap of explaining government policy or international/ethnic conflicts by references to things that happened decades or centuries ago. You know, the argument that the Serbs have to persecute the Alabanians in Kosovo because of some battle there in the 14th century or something. Or that the British policies that lead to the Opium Wars or that WWII even have any direct impact on national policy in China today. If it weren't for a concious government policy of creating widespread agitation over these issues, people wouldn't neccessarily give a damn. Keep in mind the median age in China is 33 years old. That means that most Chinese were born after the Cultural Revolution - forget about WWII. They wouldn't remember a thing about it if the schools didn't obsess about it as a matter of policy.

But censorship is bad. Pollution is bad. Giving military aid to genocidal regimes is bad. And we on this blog have complained about all these things in the context of just about every government with which we are familiar. It's China's turn today.

The Law Talking Guy said...

As I see it, we have two options. We can decide to take on China and Russia, either or both, in a renewed Cold War. Certainly, the right wing in America desperately wants to do this. McCain is a hawk on Russia - many others are hawks on China.

Or we can do what Roosevelt did at Yalta and Eisenhower did with Korea - find away to make peace with other great powers in an imperfect world. Russia and China are both behaving badly. Both have dozens of ethnic minorities within their borders, remnants of former Empire (the USA did a far, far better job of exterminating its minorities, and no longer faces such problems - let's be realistic about empires in world history).

But do we want another Cold War, or do we accept the framework of the United Nations which - by giving permanent veto power to five members - understood that it would try to balance spheres of influence with principles of self-determination?

I urge the latter.

Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

If you reread my comment you will find that I did no excusing or explaining of China's bad behavior. I am simply pointing out of Western ignorance of most things China and Chinese colors pretty much every opinion, comment and argument that I see presented anywhere.

It is really a profound problem this pontificating from a position of ignorance (no YOU specifically, just in general).

Raised By Republicans said...


You didn't but that bozo who said that he could explain China's attitude about the Olympics by talking about the Lu Gang murders was.

Sorry for any misunderstanding.

Raised By Republicans said...


As for "what is to be done" I agree with you. There is a place for confrontation and there is certainly a place for saying, "these are government policies we do not condone." But we should do it in an over all atmosphere of engagement and cooperation. Trade with China should continue. We shouldn't be paranoid about them to the point of hysteria. But we shouldn't be sanguine about China either.

The good news about China is that they seem to be moving (at least domestically) in a positive direction very quickly. Most encouraging it is the people not the government that seem to be the democratizing force. Local municipalities are setting up their own elections with or without central government or CPC approval.

The bad news about China is that their government seems to be slow to allow these democratizing forces to flourish. The censorship, political imprisonment, lack of any meaningful environmental or labor protections not to mention a foreign policy based on giving military aid to some of the nastiest governments in the world (like Sudan, Burma and North Korea) are all really really bad things.

RE: Russia. Russia right now is somewhat more democratic than China. But Russia is moving in the wrong direction rather quickly. Putin is consolidating power. Press freedoms are badly eroded there. Russian foreign policy is based on bullying neighbors and using high oil and gas prices to extort those it can't/won't invade.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Wow RBR, Russia is ENORMOUSLY more free and democratic than Russia. China is still a totalitarian state with absolute control over press and internal movement of peoples. It even controls the internet. It has thousands of political prisioners, re-education camps, and slave labor camps. Let's not get all woozy abou China. China has zero democracy.

Russia, by contrast, is like Mexico was before the 1990s: a free country nominally democratic procedures and some rule of law, including local elections, BUT a corrupt government that exercises a lot of pressure on the press and on the election process to maintain one-party rule.

Go to China and unfurl a banner saying "Free Tibet" and see what happens to you within seconds. Go to Moscow and unfurl a banner saying "Free Ossetia" and you might (eventually) get harassed by soldiers if you are in a very public place, but you won't be (as you would in China) imprisoned and sent to slave labor camps or - in the case of many Tibetans, Falun Gong suporters, or underground Christians - simply executed with minimal legal process.

You've got to keep this stuff in proper perspective. Russia is unlikely to ever regress politically anywhere near to China's enforced "harmony." It is not moving in the wrong direction rather quickly; it has taken some clear steps backward which are very notable at election times, but there is no gathering momentum toward dictatorship.

China is showing very little sign of political progress. Indeed, The Economist reports that the Olympics provided an excuse for more political repression. I know it's fun to be excited about China and Free Trade and the idea that all is going to be well over there, but we have to remember that China is way more powerful, dangerous, and totalitarian than Russia.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I believe you meant to write, "Russia is ENORMOUSLY more free and democratic than China."

Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...

Wow! For smart guys you really don't understand the reality of the situation on the ground in China. I suppose this highlights the (rather vast) difference between knowing something (or thinking you do) and understanding it.

Bert Q. Slushbrow, Sr. said...
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