Getting Beijing To Jump Through The Olympic Rings

In 2005, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, declared the US intention to achieve the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a “responsible stakeholder” in the world. Seemingly winning the debate within the Bush Administration over the challenge posed by the PRC, proponents of engagement envision a stakeholder role as the means to guide the “peaceful rise" of PRC constructively. Alarms continue to be raised about perennially rising PRC defense expenditures, its accumulation of more than one trillion US dollars in foreign exchange reserves, and expansive diplomatic and commercial efforts in Africa, but the PRC to date has avoided provoking genuine concern about its intentions. Proponents of engagement continue to prevail in this debate, but opponents can rightly point out little benefit has come from this approach. Opportunities have been minimal, until now.

Witnessing the latest round of oppression in Myanmar, formerly Burma, the US and world community has appropriately denounced the cabal of generals running the country, the Orwellian named State Peace and Development Council. However, the recourse to speeches demanding action and new economic sanctions is misguided. These words and penalties will do little to dissuade the military junta. The appropriate target is the PRC leadership; the time for this leadership to demonstrate its rise in indeed peaceful and that its role will be a responsible one is now. The PRC leadership is main backer of the Myanmar junta and is they who possess the leverage to end these deplorable acts. However, restraining its clients in Myanmar will not be enough.

In the past six months, other challenges the US has labored to address matters in other regions of the world can be best addressed by the PRC and pressure should be applied. The US and world have lamented the genocide occurring in Darfur, Sudan, while the PRC has bolstered the regime with commercial ties and military forces. Recently, North Korea arbitrarily canceled the most recent round of nuclear disarmament talks. And now, the PRC is silent as its client undertakes a brutal crackdown on Buddhist monks proceeds in Myanmar.

US diplomacy should link all three matters and demand PRC action, but the path does not lie the halls of the United Nations, but the conference rooms of the International Olympics Committee (IOC). The PRC has shown little appetite for empowering the UN beyond a forum for deliberation, but it would respond immediately to any hint the IOC would spoil Beijing’s meticulously planned hosting of the Games in 2008; the last thing it wants is a labeling of its long sought prize as the Genocide Games. Where the UN resolutions and sanctions would fail against the Myanmar junta, decisions and declarations by the IOC would spur PRC action on all these issues – anything to preserve the shine of the Beijing Olympics. It is time the PRC learns being a responsible stakeholder is more than cleaning the air over Beijing and enforcing manufacturing standards; rectifying the intransigence of North Korea, Sudan, and Myanmar are within its power. The question is whether the United States can recognize the opportunity in front of them.

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