The Washington Post asks on its editorial page of December 14, 2006 whether the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing will be remembered as the “Genocide Olympics.” Given China’s unstinting diplomatic support for Khartoum’s National Islamic Front regime, during the entire course of the Darfur genocide (as well as during genocidal destruction in the oil regions of southern Sudan), this seems a perfectly reasonable question.
China abstained in the vote on UN Security Council Resolution 1706 (authorizing a robust UN peace support operation to Darfur), thus weakening significantly the international consensus essential on this key occasion. China has all along publicly insisted that any deployment of forces to halt genocide in Darfur must have the permission of Khartoum’s gnocidaires. China has also signaled that it won’t support any subsequent UN Security Council Resolution with Chapter VII (enforcement) authority. China continues to profit as a primary weapons supplier to the Khartoum regime, knowing full well how weapons of Chinese manufacture will be used and distributed in Darfur. In short, oil-thirsty China continues to look at Sudan exclusively through the lens of its growing petroleum needs, and its $10 billion commercial and capital investment in the National Islamic Front economy (not Sudan’s as a whole). Khartoum does not have a better or more supportive ally — one more willing to turn a blind eye to massive atrocity crimes and human rights abuses.
At the same time, China also knows — as do all who will simply look at the political and economic equities — that Khartoum is highly susceptible to pressure from its greatest economic and diplomatic partner. Were Beijing to commit seriously to using its influence, Khartoum would no longer feel emboldened to persist in its present obdurate denial of meaningful security to civilians and humanitarians in Darfur. A duly authorized UN peace support operation (per UN Security Council Resolution 1706) would no longer continue to exist in name only.
China’s shameful complicity in the genocide that continues throughout Darfur and increasingly eastern Chad, Beijing’s relentlessly self-interested support for a regime of conspicuous gnocidaires, demands highlighting. The 2008 Olympic Games that China is scheduled to host must become, in the event, the symbol of China’s central role in this vast international failure. The perverse irony of China’s “official slogan” — “One World, One Dream” — must be exposed for the disgraceful hypocrisy that it is.
The notion of a “single world” — a true world of “one” response to outrageous human destruction and suffering — is daily more deeply betrayed by Beijing’s support for Khartoum. The “dream” of the people of Darfur for safety and minimal well-being is steadfastly denied by Beijing’s ruthless geopolitical calculations.
No such brutal regime deserves to host the Olympic Games. Certainly no such regime can possibly lay legitimate claim to speaking for, or in any way representing, the “dreams” of the people of Darfur.
Below are two recent efforts to make precisely this case: one is the editorial from The Washington Post (December 14, 2006); the other an op/ed by this writer (“Push China, Save Darfur”) from The Sunday Boston Globe (December 17, 2006).
Editorial from The Washington Post,
December 14, 2004
“China and Darfur: The Genocide Olympics?”
Thursday, December 14, 2006; Page A30
NEWSPAPERS HAVE been running harrowing ads on the genocide in Darfur. They feature images of suffering coupled with appeals to President Bush to halt it. But the key to this tragedy lies not in the killing fields of western Sudan nor even in the White House. It is to be found instead in Khartoum, Sudan’s booming capital. The sleek new office towers sprouting up in the commercial district explain why Sudan’s government has resisted American and European pressure to end the genocide. But they also show why Arabs and Asians — and especially the Chinese — have the power to influence Sudan and the responsibility to use it.
Sudan has been subject to U.S. sanctions since the 1990s. It has been condemned in numerous United Nations resolutions, and Western firms that do business there risk alienating customers and investors. And yet a $4 billion complex of offices, parks and hotels is rising at the confluence of the White and Blue Niles, complete with the new sail-shaped headquarters of Petrodar, a Chinese-Malaysian-United Arab Emirates oil partnership. Thanks to these investors, along with Kuwaitis, Saudis, Indians and Pakistanis, Sudan’s petro-economy is flourishing. This year the economy is expected to grow 13 percent on the back of oil exports, most of which go to China.
So Sudan’s government feels it can ignore Western revulsion at genocide because it has no need of Western money. But the bigger question is why China, along with Sudan’s other Arab and Asian partners, feels free to trample on basic standards of decency. China’s economic model rests on access to Western markets — access that can’t be assured given popular resentment of China’s growing trade surplus. Equally, China seeks acceptance at the world’s diplomatic top table — and this cause is unlikely to be advanced if China is perceived to be complicit in genocide. Imagine the newspaper ads leading up to the Beijing Games in 2008: Human rights campaigners will call on the world to boycott the Genocide Olympics.
China recently demonstrated its leverage over Sudan, prevailing upon the regime to allow the embattled African Union force in Darfur to be supplied with better equipment. But China should join with the United States and others to broker a cease-fire in Darfur, without which even a beefed-up peace monitoring force cannot save civilians. In recent weeks, fighting has intensified in the region and spilled into neighboring Chad; refugees are fleeing to the Central African Republic, which is embroiled in its own internal conflict. A regional catastrophe is brewing that could be worse even than the past three years of killing.
This crisis isn’t going to fix itself. Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir rivals Iran’s leader in genocide denial: He recently accused aid workers of exaggerating Darfur’s crisis to preserve their jobs. Doesn’t China feel qualms about propping up this ogre? Perhaps Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., who is in China along with a team of Cabinet officials and the Fed chairman today and tomorrow, might trouble to ask that question.
[from The Sunday Boston Globe, December 17, 2006]
“Push China, save Darfur”
By Eric Reeves
CATACLYSMIC HUMAN destruction in Sudan’s Darfur region and in eastern Chad continues to accelerate, even as the international community remains inert. Humanitarian workers are being evacuated at an alarming rate, as violence creates an intolerable lack of security. The murderous Janjaweed militias are more heavily armed and more deadly than ever, due to continuing support from the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum. According to Jan Egeland, departing UN aid chief, some 6 million people in the crisis area face an increasingly “hopeless” situation. A catastrophic wave of death is impending, and indeed has already begun.
Why is the international community so paralyzed in responding to the first great genocide of the 21st century? Why does UN Security Council Resolution 1706, passed in August, mean so little? Why hasn’t the authorized force of 22,500 troops and police begun protecting civilians and the rapidly collapsing humanitarian lifeline upon which millions now depend? Why has the world refused to confront Khartoum’s gnocidaires with an ultimatum on UN deployment?
The regime remains obdurate for two primary reasons: a lack of diplomatic, financial, and military commitment on the part of militarily capable Western nations; and steadfast diplomatic support from China, assuring the regime that the Security Council will never pass a truly threatening resolution. Wielding its veto threat, China forced changes in the text of Resolution 1706 so that it merely “invites the consent” of Khartoum, without stipulating what would happen if the “invitation” were declined.
Khartoum, of course, adamantly refused to accept any UN forces. Indeed, the regime has subsequently insisted that the UN cannot be part of the command structure of the thoroughly ineffectual African Union force presently on the ground, and cannot provide more than technical and logistical assistance. Hence the genocidal status quo.
So what will Western countries do to put serious pressure on the Khartoum government? The European Union cannot find the will even to impose economic sanctions, although its parliament declared in September 2004 that realities in Darfur are “tantamount to genocide.” That weasel phrase is designed to avoid the obligations of signatories to the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. The United States imposed comprehensive economic sanctions on Sudan in 1997, but now seems more interested in making deals with the regime in exchange for intelligence on terrorists. (For Khartoum, this is a perverse benefit of having hosted Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda from 1991 to 1996.)
Despite the public hand-wringing and disingenuous bluster, the United States and its allies have acquiesced before Khartoum’s defiance, and in China’s determination to protect its biggest investment in Africa. Over the past decade, $10 billion in capital and commercial investments have bought China a dominant position in Sudan’s burgeoning oil industry, which now produces 400,000 barrels a day. Indeed, Sudan is China’s largest source of off-shore oil production.
In a sense, Western — and chiefly American — advocacy efforts have enjoyed remarkable success: Darfur has a visibility that is astonishing, given the remoteness and inaccessibility of the region. But these efforts must become more globally effective: European civil society is woefully inactive responding to Darfur. Even more critically, however, China must feel the pressure.
This is a tall order, given China’s imperviousness to foreign criticism of its increasingly rapacious behavior abroad. But the 2008 Olympic Games provide precisely the political platform that Beijing so ruthlessly suppresses domestically. The games represent for China a “coming out” event — a chance to show itself anew to a world whose memories of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre have largely faded. Despite continuing gross human rights abuses throughout China, and the brutal repression of Tibet, Beijing feels the moment is ripe.
Darfur advocacy needs to change this — needs to link “Darfur” indissolubly in the world’s consciousness with “2008 Olympic Games in China.” China is already rolling out the welcome carpet. These ruthless men must be convinced that their failure to persuade Khartoum to allow UN troops and civilian police into Darfur will make of the Olympics a gigantic protest venue. The Chinese leadership must be forced to make a choice: work now to halt genocide in Darfur, or see the Olympic Games used, at every turn, as a means of highlighting the Chinese role in sustaining the ultimate human crime.
This sort of advocacy will be difficult. But then nothing else can save Darfur.
[Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College, has written extensively on Sudan.]