Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Bejing Olympics, International Business, and Genocide

To quote Nicholas Donatiello Jr., president of the Chinese research firm, “On television the Olympics looks like an athletic event, but on location it’s a big business convention." Judging by the hubbub surrounding this years Bejing Olympics, I would agree wholeheartedly. To name a few important issues:

1) Companies like Coca Cola, General Electric, and Anglo American are being prodded for their support of the "Genocide Olympics".

a) This prodding has gone to create the "United Nations Global Compact and the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights", a conference dedicated to the tie between big business and human rights. Of course, this wouldn't be a problem if China wasn't turning a blind eye on Darfur, which brings me to my second point...

2) China has turned a blind on the Genocide in Darfur. Although many countries haven't jumped up and done something (*cough cough* United States *cough cough*), China has only recently mentioned the problems to the Sudanese Gov., although China is heavily connected to Sudan, with Sudan hosting Chinese oil refineries on Sudanese soil, with the result of 279,100 barrels per day being exported back to China.

3) China is changing their look for the outside world, which will get a rare first hand look at China's poverty, injustice, censorship, and questionable human rights. Some examples:

a) Recently, through a combination of flooding, mining accidents, and a lack of political funding to smaller townships, many individuals are not be compensated for health problems, (which leave them out of work). An estimated 10,000 people have flocked to Bejing, for hopes that the Supreme People's Court will provide justice. Bejing on the other hand is sending them back to their towns, without compensation. China does not want the world to see it's underbelly. In the last month alone, China has created blockades to, well, block the protesters. In a few accounts, police have even razed the slums where protesters live.

b) I'm sure most Wikimedians know about this, but recently, China opened it's Internet services to zh.wikipedipia. Most sources say that this is an attempt to lower the censorship issue while Bejing is internationally watched and that after the Olympics are over, it will return right back to censoring the internet. The censorship is big enough, and so well known, that the Wikimedia community had to take action.

Those issues are frequently brought out there as reasons for any company that cares about their public relations to distance themselves from China. On the plus side, these complaints are causing some good for places like Darfur and Tibet. In fact, because of the heightened sense of the public, companies that are supporting the Chinese Olympics are also "covering all their bases" by helping out Third World countries and other good causes. Coca Cola for instance has supplied Sudan with fresh water and has held conferences, albeit the records are unreleased, that are said be about how to help Darfur.

And what does China have to say about these claims? In a CNN news report (below) Wang Hong Yi of the Chinese Institute of International Studies says that the Olympics should not be tied to political issues, and that this is the "worldwide consensus".

Interestingly though, some facts point in the other direction on the issues of China's connection to Darfur. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute's arms transfer data for 2007, China only gave Sudan 8% of hits weaponry, while Russia provided 87%. An even more interesting fact is that, according to the CIA, Japan received 48% of Sudan's exports, while China only received 31% (with South Korea lagging behind with only 3.8%). An even more alarming note is that the UN does not consider Sudan, and subsequently Darfur, to be involved in acts of genocide. In a UN report, released in 2005 (It's a PDF, with no HTML version to be found. The closest is a critical analysis by an independent journal), section II clearly states that, "The Commission concluded that the Government of the Sudan has not pursued a policy of genocide." But, like my personal opinion, it also states that, "The conclusion that no genocidal policy has been pursued and implemented in Darfur by the Government authorities, directly or through the militias under their control, should not be taken in any way as detracting from the gravity of the crimes perpetrated in that region. International offences such as the crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been committed in Darfur may be no less serious and heinous than genocide." Although we may be getting off track, it is important to know that (1) China is not giving large amounts of weaponary and resources to Sudan, and then that (2) Sudan is not commiting genocide. Heinous and horrible yes, but not genocidal. Thus, China is not funding genocide. This, of course, does not exempt them from concerns of human rights violations, censorship, and societal distortion.


P.S. Thanks to Voicer, from the comment section of the Economist article. Though I checked his/her links for accuracy (Thanks Wikipedia for the reference paranoia >_< ), they look good, and bring up some very valid points for any counterargument.