clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Torch Song, Continued

While in Paris, London, and San Francisco, those protesting against China in many respects behaved badly - including trying to take the torch from a paralympic in a wheelchair - in Seoul, it was the opposite, as Chinese behaved quite badly, "hurling rocks, bottled water and plastic and steel pipes at protesters," according to the New York Times.

The protests in Korea were different, as the Koreans were mostly concerned with the treatment of North Korean refugees.  But as was the case in Nagano,Japan, where protestors threw garbage and flares, Chinese nationals turned out en masse to counter the protestors, and according to the Times, there was a fair amount of violence perpetrated by the Chinese.

One argument we keep hearing is that the Chinese want to  "show our defense” of the Olympics and a burning sense of nationalism, as a student quoted in the Times explains:  “I am so happy that we host the Olympics, so proud that I am a Chinese. I hate those who try to throw cold water on our celebration.”

Well, by all means, enjoy the celebration. The notion that all of the protests are simply whipped up by CNN and friends, though, is a misunderstanding of the protestors, at least in the West.

Those who are concerned enough to actually go out and protest, generally speaking, are people  who have particular concerns and who have paid considerable attention, whether it's Tibet, Darfur, or whatever their particular issue is.

In other words, they're not rushing out into the streets after being deceived by CNN.  It would be good if the Chinese understood this:  most of us in the West are simply not interested enough to protest much of anything.

It would also be good if they understood that they are giving many an impression not of strength but instead of fear and hysteria.  Anyone who has paid the slightest attention knows that the Chinese have concocted a miraculous rise, and that they are understandably proud.  Like the U.S., like Japan, and like Europe, though, China is not perfect, and they would be well advised to talk to their critics rather than beating them.  There may be troubles at the Olympics, and if so, they could certainly have been defused beforehand.

The North Koreans sort of came out of left field, at least to us, but they underscore a really serious concern, and an area where China and the West, particularly the U.S., would be wise to work together.

As bad as the rice shortages are in Haiti and Liberia and other poor countries, people have been dying of starvation in North Korea even when the world was flush with cheap grains.  Things are going to be very tough for the North Koreans now, and you can't tell dying people not to go wherever they have to go to get food in their bellies.

All the protests aside, there are opportunities.  We hope that thoughtful people in China, and in the rest of the world, will follow Richard Nixon's advice and concentrate on their mutual interests more than their differences. He got a lot wrong, but that he got right.