Olympic Gamesmanship

NEW YORK – China lobbied long and hard to host this summer’s Olympics, and thousands of Chinese literally danced in the streets when the decision was made to award Beijing the games. This was to be a chance for the Chinese to show the world just how far they and their country had come.

I do not know if there is a Mandarin equivalent for “Be careful what you wish for,” but if there is, it surely applies. China is getting a great deal of international attention, but not the sort it bargained for. On the contrary, China is finding itself under intense international scrutiny for everything from its policy toward Tibet, human rights, and product safety to the level of its currency, its policy in Sudan, and global climate change.  What was meant to be a moment of celebration has turned into one of criticism.

Indeed, it is likely that several prominent world leaders, including British Prime Minster Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, will not attend the opening ceremonies. Several prominent American politicians have voiced support for a boycott. Still other heads of state, including French President Sarkozy, are weighing staying away.

Of course, China merits criticism in many areas of its domestic and foreign policy. But snubbing China is misguided. It ignores what the country has accomplished, and it risks consequences that are inconsistent with what the critics themselves want to see.