Look At The Big Picture

Two news items and one personal item that intersect. First news item: the Olympic torch is being attacked and might not make it out of San Francisco alive.

As you already know, people around the world are ready to use the Chinese-hosted Olympic games to bring to light China's occupation/oppression of Tibet. If you're unfamiliar with what's behind these charges, go Google it and see what you come up with.

Second news item: The state of Ohio is opening a department of development in Beijing. 

Apparently the state is starting to do this in various countries throughout the world in an effort to encourage trade.

My personal item: I bought a new pair of Italian shoes this week.

Seriously, before you start making fun of me, it sounds more "yuppy" than it is. They're more casual shoes that don't even look Italian. I bought them at DSW for a really good price.

So how do these three items connect?

China has been thrilled about the Olympics as they're viewing it as their international coming-out ceremony. With over one billion consumers and the ability to produce goods on the cheap, China is a cash cow. But the fact remains that China, while enjoying the wealth that accompanies free markets, still operates as a steel-fisted regime capable of committing numerous human rights autrocities without accountibility [see Tibet]. That's why the Olympics are the perfect target for protesters. China is now on an international stage. They're attempting to paint an "everything-is-normal" picture for the world. Protesters are going to use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hit China hard, knowing that there's very little the Communist government can do about it while the world is watching.

But shouldn't this also be the perfect opportunity for the other world superpowers to step up, give international governmental support to these protesters and demand that China make specific changes in support of human rights? You would think so. But they won't. There's one major problem concerning such a demand: there's too much money at stake. Governments aren't too excited about upsetting the applecart just to make a plea for human rights. There are two sides getting rich here who don't want to ruin a good thing.

Take for example American politicians. The perception in our country is the Republicans are big-business, in favor of open markets and, by nature, will overlook human rights issues. Meanwhile, Democrats are usually viewed as the party that fights against oppression. Yet in this situation, no one is moving. Sure, Democrats might spout certain rhetoric that expresses their disdain, saying they favor something akin to an un-official rebuke, but they're just as culpable as the Republicans. It should be noted that Ohio's government is currently under control of the Democrats. Opening up a trade office in downtown Beijing doesn't really vibe with the "Free Tibet" message.

I'm not a social liberal, but we should really think a little about this. These facts bring up some interesting ethical questions. What is America's responsibility in all of this? By our "business as usual" attitude are we empowering the Chinese government to continue oppression? As a Christian, what role should we play in resolving this conflict?

I hold that there are no easy answers to those questions. And, despite how other Christian leaders come down on the issue, I'm not convinced that they have black-and-white Biblical answers; there's a lot of grey to navigate. But the very least I should do is think through them and put any conclusions into application.

Oh, and what does all of this have to do with my Italian shoes? A careful examination of the shoe box revealed some small print that made me laugh:

"Made In China."