Thursday, September 27, 2007
Myanmar/Burma and the Olympics Question
My colleague Drew Thompson writes in today's Financial Times:
The British and Chinese have used diplomatic channels. US president George W. Bush announced financial sanctions against the junta members and their families. India, eager to play a greater regional role, and China, heavily invested in Burma and mindful of its image prior to the Olympics next year, will both be under intense pressure to demonstrate their opposition to any violent resolution. However, it is unrealistic to expect the Chinese government to force a peaceful resolution, as it can only exploit its good political and economic relations so far.
He's not optimistic either that you could have an easy transition should the junta fall.
The situation is of course frustrating for many people but it also shows the limits of what the U.S. can do with a regime that has already isolated itself to a great degree and whose major trading partners are disinclined to take drastic action.
On a separate note, there is another question I'd like to explore--how often we can play the "Olympic card." It has become axiomatic that, in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, China is eager to burnish its international image. Already, Olympics-related pressure is said to have induced a change in policy toward Sudan. There are those arguing that China is less likely to threaten Taiwan in the next several months so as not to have any incidents--which may embolden pro-independence forces. Now you have commentators arguing that China will have to do more in Burma. My question is at what point does Beijing decide, enough? At what point can foreigners continue to play the Olympics card, threatening boycotts or withdrawals if China doesn't do something on X issue? Something to consider ...