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A victory and a challenge

WW in 2001: China and the Olympic games

Published Aug 13, 2008 10:44 PM

We reprint below, as part of our archival series celebrating Workers World’s 50th year of publication, excerpts from an article that first appeared in the July 26, 2001, issue. It is especially appropriate in the week following the opening of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where the opening ceremony, broadcast to billions of people all over the world, was such a stunning demonstration of the technological development of the Peoples Republic of China, something that would not have been possible without the tremendous revolution of 1949 led by the Chinese Communist Party.

The awarding of the 2008 Summer Olympics to the People’s Republic of China represents a victory for the Chinese people made possible only by their 1949 revolution. At the same time, this victory has evoked the fundamental hostility of imperialism to China as a socialist country, demonstrating the dangers and contradictions inherent in the policy of “opening up” to the capitalist world powers.

This victory, grudgingly acceded to by Washington and the capitals of Western Europe, is a source of great national pride for China, which was an oppressed country just half a century ago. It was one of the poorest countries in the world after enduring more than a century of the most degrading colonial plunder and humiliation, from the 1840 Opium War to the Japanese occupation that ended in 1945.

The People’s Liberation Army, led by the Chinese Communist Party, ended this plunder by driving the U.S.-backed forces of Chiang Kai-shek off the mainland to Taiwan, where they set up a haven for the defeated landlords and capitalists under the protection of the U.S. Seventh Fleet.

On Oct. 1, 1949, Mao [Zedong] declared that “China has stood up,” and the Chinese Revolution proceeded to expropriate the landlords and big capitalists and set up a socialist regime. China became a sovereign, independent country, free of imperialist domination for the first time in over 100 years.

The Chinese leadership has made major concessions to imperialist corporations and domestic capitalism, and has abandoned an internationalist, anti-imperialist foreign policy in recent years. But China is still an independent, sovereign, socialist country capable of resisting imperialism. For the ruling classes of the world, it is a galling prospect to have to turn over the Olympic stage to a government born of anti-imperialist revolution.

The Chinese government, ever since taking power, has shown its ability to undertake vast projects when the situation called for them.

Beijing quickly won the majority in the second-round vote at the International Olympic Committee balloting in Moscow with 56 votes, against 49 for the three other candidates combined. Although the vote is by secret ballot, China “appeared to receive broad international support,” according to the New York Times of July 14 [2001].

“When the European Parliament and some members of the United States Congress called for the Games to be sent elsewhere,” continued the Times of July 14 [2001], “the political maneuvering backfired, and Beijing instead may have picked up another 10 votes from IOC delegates, said Mario Pescante, an Italian member.”

Just days before the vote, the Bush administration had let it be known that it would not try to block China, as Washington had done in 1993. At that time the PRC lost by two votes to Australia. The momentum for Beijing has been building for months. Washington decided that it was the better part of wisdom to go with the flow.

Anti-China invective began even before vote

Even before the actual selection of Beijing, when it was clear that China was going to win, the capitalist press began a steady stream of anti-China invective and threats. A Washington Post editorial on July 8 [2001] suggested that the 2008 Olympics could become comparable to the 1936 Olympics staged by the Nazis and Hitler in Berlin.

A New York Times editorial of July 12 [2001] gave voice to the ruling class when it declared that the IOC should let China know that “its handling of every aspect of the games—including construction of new Olympic arenas, the treatment of foreign visitors and reporters, and the political climate in which the games are held—will be closely monitored by the world.”

It continued, “The IOC and the world at large should make clear that granting the Olympics to China is not meant as a reward.” The “liberal” New York Times gave the outlines of the anti-China campaign being hatched in editorial rooms of the big business media.

“The Olympic authorities must insist that no journalists, athletes or spectators seeking to attend the Games be denied entry to China, or find their activities once there restricted, even if their political views are abhorrent to the Chinese government. International media should have unrestricted access in covering preparation for the Games and all areas of Chinese life [!] during the Olympics, including human rights and China’s criminal justice system.”

“Olympic officials,” continued the Times, “must also insist on the right to monitor labor practices at Olympic construction sites, as well as to oversee security measures leading up to the Games.” As if the Times had ever shown genuine concern for workers in the U.S.!

The paper even threatened a boycott before the voting took place.

This is the rabid colonialist, anti-communist attitude that lurks beneath all the sugar-coated language of imperialist diplomacy. The Times is only one step away from calling for the old-style extraterritoriality of the “Open Door” policy, when colonial powers trampled on China’s sovereignty at will.

All this is demanded in the name of “human rights.” But this is imperialist terminology, used as a smokescreen. Humanity does not exist in the abstract. It is divided into classes, into oppressors and oppressed. The social and political rights of those who fight on behalf of the exploiters and oppressors of the working class have to be curtailed. Of course, this must not be abused and must be done within the strict framework of socialist legality, with an emphasis on political methods and the mobilization of the working class. Repression should be a last resort.

If the PRC is engaged in a campaign against corrupt or counter-revolutionary elements who want to restore full-scale capitalism and imperialism to China, whether under the guise of defending democracy, human rights, religious mysticism or any other pretext, it has the right to do so. The question of the effectiveness of the methods is another matter. But imperialism has no right to tell China to let its enemies organize with impunity.

Unfortunately some of the Chinese sports officials and advocates gave credence to this imperialist arrogance by promising to “improve” the “human rights” situation in China. It would be more to the point to demand that the Chinese or any other progressive government be allowed to send its media and observers into the U.S. to examine the plight of the working class and all Black, Latino, Arab, Asian and Native people.

They could start by visiting Mumia Abu-Jamal, the internationally recognized journalist and political prisoner on death row. Then they could move on to the two million other poor people incarcerated in the dungeons of the U.S. They could note that one-fourth of all Black males in the U.S. are under the jurisdiction of the “criminal justice” system.

They could investigate the plight of millions of women and children living in poverty in the richest country on earth. They could investigate the arson against abortion clinics, including the one just burned down in Baton Rouge, La. They could investigate the brutal violence and daily discrimination against lesbian, gay, trans and bi people.

Let the Chinese monitor the U.S. sweatshops that exist from coast to coast, many filled with undocumented workers with no rights at all. Let it be shown that only 13 million of the 140 million workers in this country have a union. It would be apropos of human rights to point out that 43 million poor and working people have no health care in the U.S.

There is no end to the violations of “human rights” of the workers and oppressed in this, the richest of all capitalist “paradises.”

Only the strength of the Chinese Revolution has forced the imperialists to deal with the PRC.