Battle of the Beijing Boycotts

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom writes in the Nation:

To boycott or not to boycott, that is the question. Rather, that’s just one of the questions activists are facing right now when it comes to China. At least four different Olympics boycott-related debates are currently taking place in print, online and broadcast media.

Since 2001, when the news first broke that Beijing would host the 2008 Olympic Games, activists have questioned whether it would be helpful or counterproductive for those concerned about China’s human rights record or Beijing’s ties to brutal foreign powers to pull out of this year’s games.

Then there’s the debate-within-this-debate that centers on the partial boycott plan. This plan, associated with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, among others, would have world leaders go to Beijing in August, but skip the opening ceremony as an act of protest.

The third debate revolves around the Olympic torch relay and focuses on individuals skipping their turns to carry the flame to protest the crackdown in Tibet, as two South Koreans scheduled to participate did when the flame passed through Seoul.

Last but not least, there is a lively debate within China centering on Chinese citizen boycotts of certain Western companies’ products. Here, the primary focus is Carrefour, the French supermarket chain that is second only to Wal-Mart in global sales.

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