The Global Handshake

I just got an email from Paul Hilder of about a Global Handshake for the China Olympics:

As the Beijing Olympics begin, the world looks on with mixed emotions. It’s a moment which should bring us closer together, and Chinese citizens deserve their excitement — but the Chinese government still hasn’t opened meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama, or changed its stance on Burma, Darfur and other pressing issues.

Even worse, extremists in China are promoting the view that Olympic activism like ours is anti-Chinese. We can’t stay silent, but we also can’t let our efforts be abused to divide people. So what can we do? The answer comes from the Dalai Lama himself, in an unambiguous gesture of Olympic spirit and friendship: a handshake.

It began in London, passed hand to hand by thousands of us — now the handshake has gone online, and is criss-crossing the globe on its way to Beijing. All of us can join, Chinese and non-Chinese, and it comes with a promise: to hold ALL our governments accountable where they fall short, in Tibet, Iraq, Burma or beyond. We’ll deliver our message in a bold media campaign in Hong Kong and around the world: Click below to see how the Olympic handshake started, sign up to join in, and watch it circle the globe —

The handshake idea is nice (with all of the banality of that word fully intended), but let’s not forget to extend the dialogue to the Uighurs or with Taiwan.  Ok, I concede, the “round-the-world” map animation showing virtual handshakes is pretty rad, but I digress.

There’s not a lot of hope for the kind of openness that allows for fruitful dialogue on the Chinese side when they beat up and harass foreign journalists trying to cover the attack in Kashgar.  Then there is the systematic internet censorship.  The guarantee of press freedoms for foreign journalists was part of the contract that the Chinese government agreed to in order to host the Games.  The Chinese government isn’t living up to their side of the bargain.

And those missiles aimed at Taiwan aren’t too friendly or conducive to dialogue either, are they?  Or how about that attempted Chinese weapon shipment to Zimbabwe?  Not very peaceful either.

And then there are those Beijingers who were forcefully and unlawfully evicted from their homes without proper compensation to make way for the Olympics.  And the peaceful Chinese civil society activists (and regular residents of Beijing) who are living under lockdown as a result of the games.  Their grievances can hardly be considered anti-Chinese; since they ARE Chinese.  Same goes for the repression of Falun Gong practitioners and other religious groups.

Ok, so I’ve given a handshake for peace, but what is the Chinese government going to give its own citizens and the international community in return?  Do Chinese leaders and hardline nationalists even want a handshake?  Or do they want the world to kowtow in reverence and awe at the “new” China’s coming-out party?  As much as we all wished that the Olympics were about sports and international goodwill, the truth is, they are also about state-sponsored political propaganda (and uncomfortable displays of nationalism if you ask me) as well as corporate bottom lines.

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Foossa Facts

  • Oh lord you are so anti-China!

    52 Faces, member of facebook group We Rule Tibet…Bitch!
    proud daughter of Taiwan-bred parents (but we are not Taiwanese, hell no)

  • I have to say, one of the good things I can say about the “rise of China” is that now there is another country besides the US that people can blame for all the evil in the world 😉

  • oh yeah, and don’t even get me started on the KMT in Taiwan either, that’s a whole other bag o’ worms and a bag o’ blog barf.

  • This Guardian piece sums things up pretty well:

  • Heather

    You are definitely a beast,rubbish

  • The Real Strauss

    Press freedoms were part of the contract for China to host the games? How about part of the contract to be a world power? Political transparency is at the heart of any developed world model of government, and countries without it are generally discarded to the garbage heap of failed potential. China has desperately aspired to play in the world superpower sandbox, but controls information to a degree that would make even Soviet Russia blush. Despite the recent upward tick in the sophistication of value-added production in China, the country will always occupy the space below other major world powers in research and development outsourcing, because a government that makes strident but illegitimate claims to legal diligence still can’t be trusted to protect intellectual property and trade secrets, an important competitive advantage in business. How’s that Maglev project from Shanghai to Hangzhou doing? It’s dead, because the German firm didn’t want it to be copied. But the government seems to have no problem protecting other information quite well. It may be good enough for China to make hay on a high volume of simpler production rather than R&D, tantamount to the joy of almost reaching climax but without that sticky mess! But China can’t eat its cake and have it too, and in its newly-acquired role as world’s fastest ascending star, it must accept international scrutiny just like every other major world power. As long as the Chinese people bristle at every critical word uttered about the clandestine motives of a government that is steadily expanding military investment, aiming missiles at neighbors, denying its own glaring human rights abuses, and hell-bent on running roughshod over every universally accepted environmental precaution, the world will cease to take the country seriously enough to accept their place at the superpower dinner table. That America has done all the same wrong things does not excuse anyone else. If China wants to supplant America, it will only do so by concurrently out-manoeuvring it politically and socially, as well as economically. Given America’s own problems, the bar is already very low. So China’s biggest obstacle is its own pride. And Heather, personal attacks do nothing to raise the level of discourse. There are plenty of pro-China circle-jerks you can enjoy online that won’t make any intellectual demands of you.