Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The Gold Medal in Acquiesence Goes to....

I remember the debate surrounding the renewal of China's "most favored nation" trade status in 1990. (I was a nerdy child.) At the time, the argument was that deepening economic ties will one day lead to the liberalization of Chinese society.

Instead, what we've seen is sort of the opposite: deepening economic ties has made Western nations more willing to turn a blind eye to Chinese illiberalism. Which was exactly what happened when the renewal was granted in 1990. We couldn't possibly express dissatisfaction over Tian'anmen Square: there was money to be made.

Now we've entered a world where only autocratic governments are interested in hosting major international competitions. Winter Olympics in Russia in 2014, World Cup in Russia in 2018, World Cup in Qatar in 2022, Winter Olympics in China in 2022. What might that world look like?

It will probably look a lot like this: a contestant for Miss World was barred from reaching the competition because she won't be silenced regarding China's persecution of Falun Gong practitioners. With no push-back, expect this practice to become more wide-spread. The gold medal in 2022 will not necessarily mean "world's best." Instead, it will mean "world's best out of the group of people who haven't upset the Chinese government."

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