If Bush Smiles

“The Olympics” – explained Micheal Green days ago, and who wasthe Special Assistant to White House for Asian Affairs until two years ago – “are the moment in which China opens itself to the world. If we make it fail, Beijing will lose its face. Then it will become much more difficult to work with them, from human rights to North Korean containment.” While in Europe the protest to Tibet repression is growing, the sensation is that Bush’s America, which justified the war in Iraq by claiming a need for the restoration of the human rights trampled on by Saddam, is now changing sides presumably for the tight economic relations between the two countries.

One can even think of this as a common attitude in the Anglo-Saxon world, seeing that even the British Gordon Brown until now has avoided criticizing the Chinese regime with too much force. In reality, Bush who does not only exclude the boycotting of the Games, but confirms his presence at the opening ceremonies, is not as much a cowboy who is unbiased but one who is able to be blackmailed. This time he is acting as a pragmatic president who promotes the development of commercial exchanges but is equally ready to meet the Dali Lama for the first time at the White House (last October) and to be present at the awarding of Congress’ Medal of Honor to the spiritual leader of the Tibetans.

Now, while he confirms that he will go to Beijing, Bush telephones President Hu to ask him to initiate a true dialougue with the Dalai Lama and press the Chinese government not only on the Tibetan question but also on Taiwan, relationships with Iran, and fair trade.

Certainly, seeing the protest that has reached all the way to the heights of the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama who ask him to abandon the ceremony, one can have the sensation of a split between Democrats and Republicans. In reality, everyone is moving with prudence; no one, up until now, has in fact proposed the boycotting of the Olympics, a means that even the liberals of the New York Times judge ineffective, and even counterproductive. And Obama last week said that the right equilibrium between the pressure on Beijing for the respect of human rights and the necessity of cultivating positive relations with China in the long run should be pursued. Words that echo the same concerns of Bush who calls this situation the, “complexity of US-China relations”.

The conservative McCain, who with a radicalism that is a little cheeky, wants to exclude both the Russians and the Chinese from the G-7 summit that – he says- should represent countries that are not only industrialized but also democratic. Bush, this time, risks more; he tries to negotiate by smiling, rather than threatening. It is not easy but the Chinese know that the president can cancel his trip to Beijing even at the last moment. And that the Dalai Lama is, for them, in Tibet, the only possible interlocutor.

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