There’s been a lot of talk about whether the U.S. President should boycott the Olympics because of Chinese human rights concerns. The irony is that in the eyes of much of the world, it may not mean very much if we took such a bold action. Studies indicate that the U.S. under George W. Bush has a less favorable image than China. And it’s hard to imagine that many people could take Bush seriously when he talks about human rights in China, after he has condoned waterboarding practices that clearly violate international human rights protocols.
Even in an ideal world, I’m not sure that a boycott is the most effective way to influence China’s deeply concerning human rights record. After all, Nixon’s trip to China was arguably the most impactful U.S. act in shaping China’s future and Nixon went there more in friendship than in protest. At the same time, he delivered a clear message. Similarly, I tend to think America should fully participate in the Olympics while wearing a clear symbol of our support of human rights and making clear our hope that China will change its ways.
What’s sad, though, is that our country, which for so long has been an image of freedom despite all our shortcomings and our continued inequities, is now seen so negatively worldwide that it is not clear even if we tried to make a statement anyone would take us seriously. It is yet another sign of one of the great casualties of the Bush years: America’s image in the world.