When China hosted the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, my brother and I both shed some tears. We rejoiced at China’s renaissance and felt sad that our father was not there to witness the triumphant symbolism of this occasion.
He would have been proud, as ethnic Chinese around the world were to see a great civilization rise from the ashes of centuries. Despite his master’s degree from New York University, jobs were hard to come by for our father and for most other Chinese in America.
That joyful event in Beijing was almost ruined by so-called Tibetan protesters who tried to disrupt the Olympic torch as it was made its way around the world. One minute they were in San Francisco. The next minute in Paris. Who paid their way?
They claimed that China invaded Tibet in the early 1950s and forced the Dalai Lama to flee. Let me remind the reader, the last time Tibet was actually invaded was by the British in 1904 when Francis Younghusband and his band used machine-guns to slaughter powerless Tibetans.
One of the British soldiers was so sickened by the massacre that he wrote to his parents: “I hope I shall never have to shoot down men walking away again. Yet these are the same people who claimed to have higher moral standards.”
I wrote a commentary about the hypocrisy as the 2008 Games were about to begin. With its sordid history, the West is hardly in a position to preach about human-rights violations in China or the right to claim a higher moral standard.
More of the same
Contrary to what many had hoped for, US President Joe Biden’s administration if anything is even more antagonistic than his predecessor Donald Trump was toward China. This administration seems to think that by bashing China, the Democrats can retain control of Congress and maybe even hold the White House in 2024.
Biden is hoping that fake news about human-rights issues in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and supposedly aggressive actions by China toward Taiwan will distract Americans from their real pains, which are inflation and rising crime rates. We all know that Xinjiang is the gateway to Eurasia and key to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which the US is desperately trying to contain. By contrast, Tibet is not that involved.
As has happened before, Americans are being urged to boycott the “Genocide Olympics.” This time China is being accused of genocide against Uighurs in Xinjiang. Genocide by definition is the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group. If that were the case, surely there would be hundreds if not thousands of dead bodies. Where are they?
The US-led diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics is followed by the UK, Australia and Canada. The United States is hardly in any position to accuse China of human-rights violations, not with its genocide of native Americans, many of them still living in squalid conditions euphemistically called reservations. And what about its mistreatment of black people?
In another era another Western power, the British, forced Indians to grow opium instead of crops, which led to famine in 1876 that killed millions. They forced opium on China, which destroyed the lives of many generations of Chinese. The massacres of Australian Aborigines are well documented. The recent discovery of mass graves of native Canadians surely does not speak well of that country’s human-rights credentials.
Yet these are the countries accusing China of genocide. As “Boorish” Johnson said to French President Emmanuel Macron: “Donnez-moi un break!”
We are also told that more than a million Uighurs have been imprisoned. The absurdity of this claim is beyond belief.
The ‘big lie’ vs the historic record
Let’s do some simple math. The largest football stadium in the United States is the one at the University of Michigan. It seats more than 100,000. Since in the stadium people are sitting shoulder to shoulder, a prison would have to have at least some extra space. If China were to imprison a million or more Uighurs, with our satellite imaging technology which can pinpoint the presence of 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainan border, surely we Americans can show these prisons. Where are they?
How about forced-labor claims? Do we have evidence of guards forcing Uighurs to work? Again, where is the evidence?
Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf coined the term the “big lie” (in German, grosse Lüge) so colossal that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” That is exactly what is happening today on and about everything China does.
So how did we get here? Until World War II China was the “sick man of Asia,” mired in poverty. After the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century, foreign countries invaded and carved up China into their spheres of influence.
I was born in the so-called International Settlement in Shanghai, where foreign countries had extraterritorial rights, meaning Chinese laws didn’t apply to them. Only after World War II was Chinese sovereignty restored.
For a brief period, during World War II, China was an important ally as it fought against the evil Japanese. Meanwhile in the US, Japanese-Americans were incarcerated in what were called euphemistically “interment camps.” They were concentration camps. Asians in America were justifiably fearful. As my dear Japanese-American friend Doug told me, he did not blame Chinese-Americans for wearing buttons that read, “I am no Jap.”
While the ashes had not yet settled with the defeat of the Axis powers, the world immediately entered the Cold War divided into two camps. At the same time China was struggling with its own civil war, which ended with a defeated Nationalist government fleeing to Taiwan.
With the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949, China became part of the Communist bloc. For years, it was considered the enemy. The United States only restored a formal relationship in 1979 after the late president Richard Nixon’s historic rapprochement in 1972.
Today, with China’s renaissance in full swing, its ascent threatens America’s worldwide hegemony. While there is discord in the US, the two main political parties agree on one thing, blaming China for all of America’s own failures. Every effort is made to contain China, including massive disinformation.
Constant China-bashing these days is now the norm. Each party is trying to outdo the other as to which is tougher on China. I am afraid my Japanese-American friend may one day have to wear a button proclaiming, “I am no Chink.”
The Olympic spirit
International strife gives the lie to the goal of the Olympic movement: to contribute to building a more peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
In that spirit, a member of my own family, my brother’s granddaughter, will be representing Hong Kong at the Winter Games in downhill skiing. Even if she leaves with no medal, she will have followed her passion, and she is delaying her start at Harvard to give her all to a noble challenge.
Another example is Eileen Gu, a biracial competitor with an American father and a Chinese mother. She has already won many free-style ski competitions. She also excels in academics, with a near perfect score on her SAT exam, and is delaying her start at Stanford by one year.
These athletes are making sacrifices, as are countless others. They represent the best of what amateur athletics is all about.
The Olympics are not a political battleground for one country to demonize another. In the spirit of internationalism, which is the only way the world can survive, let the Games begin.
Follow Richard L King on Twitter @Richard18934962