CHINA BASHING….Matt Yglesias, noting that John McCain is now calling for the president to boycott the Olympic Games opening ceremonies in Beijing, has this comment:

It’s interesting that all the presidential candidates seem to believe this is good politics. Threatening to boycott the ceremonies per se seems unlikely to accomplish anything, but if the Chinese leadership sees that Western politicians come under intense pressure to have nothing to do with the PRC when the PRC cracks down, that should be food for thought in Beijing.

I guess I’d look at this through a different lens. There are a few evergreen topics in presidential campaigns, and one of them is a call from the various contenders to “get tough” with China. I think pretty much every presidential candidate for the past three decades has insisted that the current incumbent is obviously afraid to stand tall in the Pacific, and when he takes office we’ll see the end of all that feeble kowtowing to the old men in Beijing.

And why not? It’s a freebie. Candidates know perfectly well that “getting tough” is a big applause line on the stump, and they know equally well that the actual president, who’s responsible for actual relations with China, can’t really afford random acts of bluster toward the Chinese that might have real-world consequences (see, for example, Bush, George W., before and after the EP-3 shootdown in 2001). So their bluff is never going to get called, and by the time they take office everyone will have forgotten the whole thing.

In other words, this is just more of the same — and frankly, if this season’s China bashing is limited to calls for Olympic boycotts we’ll have gotten off pretty easy. What’s more, if we are going to bash China, Darfur is a better topic than usual to bash them about. Unlike Tibet, which China will flatly never give in on, their behavior in Darfur is quite possibly malleable. They’ve been standing in the way of arresting indicted war crimes suspects in the Sudanese government, for example, and Andrew Slack emails to remind me that the next vote on this in the UN Security Council is in June. “Watch China try to do that while we have the ‘Genocide Olympics’ spotlight on them. If they don’t stand in the way of our efforts to make arrests and the Sudanese government does not hand over the two men indicted (in fact, one of these men is being promoted right now in the government) then we will freeze the assets of folks like al-Bashir and this will be one of the most effective steps in pushing for a stop to the arming, killing, and attacks that have persisted for five years.” Maybe so.

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