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The High Cost Of The Beijing Olympics

No doubt potential Olympic hosts such as Britain want to refrain from attacking Beijing, especially as London vies to be home to the event in 2012. It may well be that the British capital too will have to go through considerable dislocation and construction to be able to host the games.
by Shihoko Goto
UPI Senior Correspondent
Washington (UPI) June 14, 2007
With only a year to go until the Summer Olympics, advocacy groups worldwide are ratcheting up efforts to expose the dark side of China, from child labor exploitation to forced relocation of some of its most vulnerable people. Yet public outcry over reports of new wrongdoings has been subdued, to say the least, and what's more, U.S. support for the Chinese regime only appears to have gotten stronger in recent months.

Earlier this week international trade union group FairPlay 2008 revealed that at least four Chinese companies that have been licensed by the authorities to produce official merchandise for the Olympic Games were exploiting children, making workers as young as 12 slave away most of their waking hours in hazardous, unhygienic factories without any days off.

Last week the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions reported that at least 1.5 million Chinese would be displaced by August 2008 as Beijing bulldozes ahead with the necessary urban development. Granted, the Geneva-based group pointed out that some of those displacements would have occurred even if the Chinese capital were not the host city of the sporting event. But displacements in Beijing have doubled over the past two years since it was awarded the hosting right, and nearly 60,000 homes have been demolished per year.

COHRE also argued that poor people were the most prone to have their houses knocked down, and they have subsequently had to move further away from their communities and workplaces, often to areas with inadequate transportation networks, in addition to suffering often violent eviction processes from the authorities.

Yet while other advocacy groups including Human Rights Watch have made similar attacks against the Chinese government, there has been surprisingly little support for the outcry from other governments.

No doubt potential Olympic hosts such as Britain want to refrain from attacking Beijing, especially as London vies to be home to the event in 2012. It may well be that the British capital too will have to go through considerable dislocation and construction to be able to host the games.

But even when hosting the Olympics is not at stake, aggressive stances toward Beijing may be on the wane. Certainly, in sharp contrast to its militancy in the Middle East, the Bush administration has largely refrained from making blatant attacks against the Chinese authorities, even when domestic pressure to be on the offensive continues to increase.

Even on economic issues, where most Americans find China to be the biggest threat to U.S. interests, the White House has refrained from taking an aggressive stance against Beijing, despite the fact that business executives as well as lawmakers have been pushing for the United States to exert itself. On Wednesday there was great disappointment in the business community following the U.S. Treasury's reluctance to chastise China for keeping its currency deliberately low against the dollar. A weak yuan makes Chinese exports less expensive and thus more attractive in overseas markets, and that is regarded as the single biggest factor in keeping the U.S. trade deficit high.

"It is difficult to understand why Treasury chooses not to say that currency manipulation is taking place, when everyone knows it is," said John Engler, president of the U.S. National Association of Manufacturers, which represents some of the biggest U.S. product makers that compete directly with China. "This was a missed opportunity to put more pressure on China," Engler said, adding that "the issue is very important to America's manufacturers, and the NAM will work closely with the administration and the Congress to increase pressure on China to act."

The head of the Washington-based U.S. Business and Industry Council, Kevin Kearns, went further and said it was "the latest example of the do-nothing Bush policies that have enabled China's trade cheating to hollow out the U.S. production base, capture formerly U.S. factories and (research and development) centers, destroy middle-class jobs, undermine the wages of hard-working Americans, and boost America's international deficits to dangerously high levels."

Despite such scathing attacks from groups that have at times been staunch allies of the administration, for now the White House is keeping to its stance that while China's practice of deliberately keeping its currency valued low is worrisome and indeed harmful to the U.S. economy, it will refrain from having a public shouting match over it. Given its meek attitude towards Beijing even when U.S. national interest is directly at stake, it is unlikely that the Bush administration -- or any other government among the world's richest nations -- will take any steps at all to attack what effectively is China's own domestic problems, even if the cost of hosting the Olympics may be sacrificing the livelihood and well-being of hundreds of thousands of Chinese lives.

Source: United Press International

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