Monday, August 25, 2008

China, my China

Geopolitics is hard.

Despite our wishes, the world is not a binary one where a particular course of action is either good or bad. I suspect that even the more doctrinaire people on the left or right recognize this.

Let's take China, for example. A piece ran on Yahoo which said, in part:

The Beijing Olympics have left the world's human rights groups frustrated and angry - convinced that China has been let off the hook for serious abuses, and adamant that future hosts like Russia must be held to a higher standard.

And the athletes are partially to blame, according to some:

Western activists also are disappointed that among the thousands of athletes at the Games, few have made even low-key efforts to speak out about political repression or China's economic ties to Sudan, where violence has raged in Darfur.

But the IOC claims that they are taking a different tactic:

At a news conference Sunday marking the end of the Beijing Games, IOC President Jacques Rogge defended the decision to stage the Olympics in China, despite the criticism of the country's human rights record.

The Olympics, he said, brought unprecedented global scrutiny to the emerging superpower with one-fifth of the world's population.

"Throughout the Games, China has been scrutinized by the world, has opened up to the world. The world has learned about China and China has learned about the world. And I believe this is something that will have positive effects in the long term," he told reporters before the closing ceremonies.

Obviously, the IOC is scared to death of another boycott, after the back-to-back Olympic boycotts of 1980 and 1984. And if some argue that China and Russia do not deserve to host the Olympics, there are also a substantial number of people that would likewise argue that the American cowboys have no place hosting an Olympics either. Perhaps we should permanently relocate the Olympics to Switzerland and be done with it.

Meanwhile, Shel Israel is going to - you guessed it - China. And he told a story about an event that changed his impressions about one of our former Presidents:

Until the year 2000, Nixon was my least favorite president, but as I read this recounting of his 1972 trip to what we then called "Red China," I cannot help but acknowledge the greatness of what he achieved by being the first US president to set foot in China. It really was a trip that changed the world.

I recall the controversy of the time. Some TV reporter--either Dan Rather or Sam Donaldson--stuck a microphone in front of Henry Kissinger, Nixon's national security adviser who had engineered the trip."Mr. Secretary," he was asked, "what does the United States expected to gain out of this China junket?" The implication was that the trip was nothing but political PR. Many of us suspected that it was no more than a stunt.

Kissinger had hardly been paying the reporter attention as he walked down some hallway of government, but on this question, he stopped. He turned to the reporter and spoke to him in the same tone one might might use to address a slow-learning child. "When we do business with a country, we never go to war against it." he said, glaring for emphasis then walking away.

Whether it's true that economic ties can prevent political problems is probably open to debate, but to the consternation of many, the United States does a lot of business with China these days, despite the objections of some of us to the policies of that nation.

Later in the post, Israel said what he was going to do in China:

I have accepted [an] invitation to go to China to speak as one of the international speakers for CNBloggercon, in Guangzhou Nov. 16-17....More than 500 of China's top bloggers are expected to attend and I feel honored to be among the very few international speakers addressing the group.

I'm also going to get the chance to see some of the country. I will be part of a small group of Westerners that TCBN has assembled to visit and talk with Chinese entrepreneurs in Beijing and Shanghai. TCBN has also agreed to bake in enough time to see a few of the wonders, such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City.

When I read that Israel was going to see the sights, my suspicions immediately arose, as I noted in a comment:

When I read your third to last paragraph, the first thought that entered my mind was, "Yeah, right. The government will only show Shel the things that they WANT him to see."

But then I thought about it:

[I]f the U.S. government hosted a group of visiting Chinese businesspeople in Los Angeles, would Watts and Compton be on the touring agenda?

Israel then replied to my comment:

The role the Chinese government has in this trip is granting a visa and stamping my passport. The China Business Network is New York-based and has no affiliation with the government. Other than a few star tourist attractions, I am seeing bloggers and entrepreneurs.

Perhaps. The China Business Network's page for the Shanghai event is here. (Note the reference to the co-author of Naked Conversations.) And here is their mission. Excerpts:

The two founders of The China Business Network are "China Hands" who worked together in Shanghai, then returned to the USA - Janet Carmosky after 18 years in China, 1985-2003, and Christine Lu after 5 years, 1999-2004. Their re-entry brought them to the realization that business people outside China faced a search, often with unsatisfactory results, for resources able to give them a useful understanding of China, and to execute in China. Meanwhile, professionals in China invariably struggle to work effectively in one culture during the day and another at night; to keep up with the challenge of staying informed and relevant in two divergent worlds. Both sides have things to teach and things to learn....

The China Business Network's mission is to provide the open platform where everyone with something to offer -organizations and individuals - can profile themselves, index their skills, locate partners and customers, contribute to the conversation, learn, and reach the entire, targeted community of international business professionals active in China.

With the technology, the understanding of the sector, the vision, and - most of all - the network to bring the entire sector under one umbrella, The China Business Network will continue to bring services to support all China business people in their professional and business development.

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