Today's online issue of The Guardian had a rather interesting article on China's role in Darfur. In it, Patrick Smith argues that if we are to point fingers at the Chinese for their failings in Darfur, we should equally point fingers at Russia and the West.
While the argument itself lacks any sort of novelty, it touches on a point that is worth recalling. I certainly do not care to condone China's Africa policy, as I find in it many faults, but I do think it behooves us to remember that the Chinese are not the only ones entangled with the Sudanese government. One need not look any further than France, Malaysia, Russia, and even the United States, to discover similar instances of government relations. Of course the nature of engagement of each state varies, but the point remains the same: they are all there.
Last week Steven Spielberg withdrew as the artistic adviser to the upcoming Beijing Olympics on the grounds that he could not reconcile himself to aiding perpetrators of gross crimes against humanity (i.e. Darfur). According to Peter Apps, Spielberg's snub is a sign of things to come. Spielberg's decision is certainly noteworthy and a brilliant exercise of the kind of soft power that may ultimately impact on China's Darfur policy, but to expect this to bring about such profound changes as many hope is to engage in nothing but wishful thinking.
So long as other states continue to maintain relations with Khartoum - in whatever capacity - it is highly unlikely that the Chinese will make any significant changes to their Darfur - and indeed African - policy. In discussions with my Chinese colleagues, I continuously encounter two comments on the Darfur issue: (1) China is not doing anything that is not being done by other international actors; (2) There is a difference between business and government. The businessmen in Sudan do business, they do not engage in government activity. Whether or not they believe the latter is open to debate, but it is the former comment that is most salient.
The Olympics will go on without Spielberg, even without the assistance of others should they withdraw. Moreover, the Olympics will be the most fantastic spectacle of "East meets West" and "East doesn't need/need to be like the West" propaganda the world has seen in some time. My brief visit to Beijing this past September convinced me of the fact. If we follow Smith's argument to it's logical conclusion, however, it appears that the "Genocide Olympics" don't belong to China alone. If we accept the international doctrine of responsibility, then to some extent the burden of the "Genocide Olympics" falls on all of us. In our failure to effectively aid the people of Darfur we are all in some measure responsible. Some, of course, more than others.