Speilberg Wrong To Withdraw From Beijing Olympics

I don’t want this blog to become political, but I can’t let this pass. I’ve been watching the media storm about Steven Speilberg withdrawing from the Beijing Olypmics opening ceremony preparations because he’s not happy at the Chinese involvement with what’s happening in Darfur.

Beijing Olympics
Image Source: Beijing 4th Olympic Cultural Festival Closing Ceremony

I’m now awaiting his announcement that he will no longer make movies in the US, because of:

  1. the waterboard technique the CIA uses (okay because London was bombed)
  2. the illegal imprisonment of inmates at Guantanamo bay (okay because it’s not actually in the US)
  3. the huge number of civilians which have died in Iraq since the invasion (okay because Sadam wasn’t a nice man)

I’m not trying to turn this into a pro-China / anti-US thing. There’s no doubt that China does have issues – some big ones – but so does every country.

I’m Australian and our government has only recently said sorry for taking tens of thousands of Aboriginal children from their families, up to the early 1970s, to be raised in white families!

My point is that Western countries are very good at criticising China, whilst ignoring their own problems. If the 2008 Olympics were in the US, would people be talking about boycotting the Olympics?

Before I lived in China, I believed most of what the Western media said about China. Some of it’s true – maybe most of it’s true – but it’s often one sided and ignores the problems that Western nations have.

It’s very unlikely that Steven Speilberg’s action will have any effect. If anything it’s like to have a negative, rather than postive, effect.

I’ve learnt that trying to force the Chinese to do something with direct action very rarely works. Threaten if necessary, but not in public! They’ll then be obliged to defy you. If you make them lose face, they are less likely to do what you want, not more likely.

It’s better to find subtle ways of doing things which can avoid any loss of face. I’m talking in stereotypes here, which is never good, but there’s a definite element of truth to what I’m saying.

Steven Speilberg could have found much better ways to use his influence. Of course, the West has never really tried to understand China and the West’s preferred diplomatic strategy is often akin to bullying.

Anyway, end of rant. Much has been written on this elsewhere, so I won’t say any more.

8 Responses

  1. Stephen:

    You know Chinese very well now. Isn’t it a great experience to understand what other culture is all about and involved in it?

    By th way, I can definitely see that this blog is getting some traffic. 😉

    Keep it up!

  2. Hi Terence,

    It is a great experience! Not much traffic yet, because I haven’t started pushing it yet! I’m building up some content slowly first…

  3. It’s so true that the West are very quick to judge Eastern cultures or “less developed” nations practices, yet they rarely turn the microscope on themselves. It will be interesting to see how this dynamic changes even more with China’s ever growing economic power. So far it has been fairly easy for the West to steamroll their way through international “diplomacy”, but hopefully we’re headed for a more globally focused, less Western-centric time.

    I found life in the Middle East extremely eye-opening, in so many ways, but not least because our perceptions of it are so clouded by the Western point of view and “moral high ground”. I saw a whole new side to a lot of the cultural issues they have there. It’s not to say I got a balanced view over there, but I saw and read about the other end of the spectrum with their own set of biases. I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle.

  4. Hi Stephen,

    I came over from Scratch 99.

    Good post on an important subject. You said there are better ways to handle the situation and make his point heard. Anyone here have any ideas?

  5. Hi Guera,

    Sorry I’m so slow in replying. I totally agree with everything you’ve written here.

    So far it has been fairly easy for the West to steamroll their way through international “diplomacy”

    I wish I wrote that! That pretty much sums up the attitude of most Western governments. I also hope we’re headed for a more tolerant globally focused time.

    When I’d only lived in Australia, I believed what the media was telling me, I was on that moral high horse along with everyone else. But once you live in some of the countries on the receiving end of criticism, you realise there is another side to the story, that most in the West have never heard.

    I’m not saying China doesn’t have issues – they do (and some serious ones), but so does everyone and there are some things that China does better than the West. I suspect this is the same in the Middle East too.

    Anyway, thanks for a great comment!

  6. Hi Isaac, Welcome – thanks for checking the new site out.

    Better ways to handle the situation? That’s put me on the spot, hasn’t it? 🙂

    It’s hard to judge what would work, but probably anything would have worked better than a public rebuke. Steven Speilberg may have been able to leverage his (former) popularity here. He could have picked a specific achievable goal (not just a blanket “solve the Darfur crisis”) and promise the powers that be that once it’s met he’d make an epic movie here. Who knows!

    The key to change in China is a lot of small steps. China ia opening up all the time. Keep pressure on them, while making them feel like they are an increasingly larger part of the international community and change will come. Call them out, denounce them, and they will withdraw into a defensive position.

  7. Hey Stephen:

    I think Mr. Speilberg withdrew after the threat of an IRS audit. 🙂

    I’m of the same mind. I laugh at the young people world-wide crying for a free Tibet, yet ignoring the indigenous people in their own nations living in abject poverty. It’s all about PR. Never believe the spin.

  8. Hi Stevo,

    Bit slow responding at the moment (in the middle of exams here).

    Your comment is spot on – people should look at their own backyard before criticising other people’s. China is a magnet for criticism. The Western media jumps on anything that happens here and China is always painted as the bad guy.

    That’s not to say that China doesn’t have some serious issues, but when bad stuff happens in the West and people aren’t nearly so keen to jump on it – or at least they are far more objective.

    I’ve started wondering why the media is so keen to jump on China. Who’s creating the spin and how are they benefiting…

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