Will you throw out your telly for Tibet?
Published 10/04/2008 | 00:00
It's amazing how very quickly we can all become experts on complex matters of global conflict. Take China and Tibet. Ask any man in the street today and they will sum up smartly. China is monstrous. Tibet is good. We know this because it says so on the telly.
There is no in-between in this story. No light and shade. China is the baddie. End of ...
That China is undoubtedly guilty of human rights abuses is widely accepted. I am not attempting here to make excuses for the regime.
It's just that I'm not sure that rugby tackling a former Blue Peter presenter carrying an Olympic torch is the best way to go about changing things.
Watching footage of the weekend ruckus as athletes attempted to carry the torch aloft to Downing Street and demonstrators attempted to stop them, you couldn't help noticing all the usual protest suspects seemed to be out in force.
Oh look! There's Peter Tatchell. And over there, Nick '30 Lovers' Clegg, leader of the Lib Dems.
That should put the wind up the Politburo back in Beijing.
As I say, that China is guilty of human rights abuses is widely accepted. (Although in fairness it's hardly in a club of one in that respect.) But is disrupting the Olympics the best way to go about effecting change?
I don't claim to have a close insight into the thinking of the ruling Chinese elite. But I do have some understanding of human nature.
And I suspect the Chinese government's reaction to the Boycott Beijing campaign is more likely to be of the digging in of the heels variety.
Who could blame them if they didn't see a double standard at work here? If we were all really serious about boycotting Beijing we'd be ripping the clothes of our backs, dumping every household gadget from toaster to telly and refusing to open any packet with those fearful warning words — Made in China.
The fact is that in our cosy West we rely on China and its hard grafting population to keep us in the low-cost style to which we have become accustomed. And no big questions asked about the human rights excesses that entails.
In Belfast you can buy an umbrella — made in China — on sale here for a quid. How can they do that? How much did the person who pieced that thing together get? We don't know. Because, let's face it we don't care.
We care of course about 'human rights'. But that is entirely different from caring about the humans whose rights we want to defend.
China is an emerging nation with a frighteningly large population. Even a little 'unrest' in that massive landmass would lead to tragedy on an unimaginable scale.
And the point about the place is that it is changing. It is reaching out to the West and learning from the West.
And the clever bits of the often patronising West are even reaching out to and learning from China. The Beijing Olympics will be part of that learning process. It will help open China up to the world.
If we are to ensure that no nation with any hint of human rights abuse in its record is to host the Games in future, we will be down to Monaco and Sweden.
For when it comes to self-righteous indignation, the easily whipped-up protester is Olympic standard.
London 2012? Let's face it, you'd hate to be carrying a torch for that one ...