Boycott Boycotts

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A reader (“anonymous”) argues cogently that it would be counterproductive to boycott the Olympics:

Boycotting will never weaken the Chinese government, but only make it stronger.

Those who support the boycott fail to remember that hosting the Olympics in 2008 is a matter not just of the Party’s interest, but one of Chinese national pride.

Remember the exuberance in the streets of Beijing and elsewhere in China when Beijing was awarded the Games? That’s not the government, that’s the Chinese people. The Chinese people are proud that they get to host the Olympics. They are proud that China is going to get to show the world its glory. The fervor for the 2008 Games is not just the central government’s, but the people’s.

Therefore, boycotting the Beijing Olympics will not only anger the Chinese government, but also the everyday Chinese people. Sure, the state-media will fan the flames, but even if it didn’t, the average Chinese on the street will still be offended as a matter of national pride.

That will only drive the Chinese to support the responses of the government, or even call for more. That is not weakening the regime but strengthening it.

All of which is to the point. But that doesn’t mean that activists and others seeking to put pressure on the government shouldn’t use the threat of a boycott or of embarrassing the Communist Party in its moment of glory as leverage.