Spratly Islands Before the Olympics

(A group of Vietnamese call for boycott of the Beijing Olympics over China's actions in the South China Sea)

14 February 2008

Le Duc

The latest news coming out of China regarding its plans for the Spratly Islands is that it will not not pursue significant hydrocarbon explorations in this region in 2008 because the national oil companies have been ordered to slow down their activities in order to avoid conflict with its neighbors in the months leading up to the Beijing Olympics.

ChinaPetro, in response to the government's call for reducing conflict in the region,
has canceled a plan to drill its first wildcat well in the Spratlys.

Its neighbors, especially Vietnamese would receive this news as no surprise, since they have already anticipated that China would do whatever was necessary to ensure that China's coming out party would be a successful one.

So enraging its neighbors, especially Vietnamese who had already staged protests in front of the Chinese embassy in Hanoi and the consulate in Saigon in December 2007 for China's decision to establish the city of Sansha, would not help put on a good face to the world about China's "peaceful rise" or the "Peaceful Dove Strategy" that has been proposed as China's 2008 charm offensive.

Nevertheless, Vietnamese in Vietnam as well as in diaspora are looking closely to see what China will do once the Olympic torch in Beijing is put out, and China puts the focus back on the need to find enough energy to maintain its rapidly growing economy and its 1.3 billion population.

Activists who charge China with illegal aggression in the South China Sea believe that these months before the Olympics is the best time to publicize China's not so peaceful behavior to the world, and countries in the region also need to take a stance in a timely manner. Actions taken after the Olympics, if any, will likely result in China retaliating without much hesitancy, at the detriment of its weaker neighbors.


While China may be able to sweep certain issues under the rug for now, some are too big to hide. Today's decision by Steven Spielberg to withdraw from being artistic advisor for the Opening and Closing ceremonies over China's role in Darfur, Sudan is causing crisis for the Games and a lot of defensive statements from the Chinese government. More details on this issue may be found in the news article below:

China faces Olympic Games crisis over Darfur

BEIJING (AFP) — China was facing a major international crisis linked to the Olympics Thursday amid mounting pressure over its role in Darfur after US filmmaker Steven Spielberg severed his links to the Games.

So far neither the foreign ministry nor the Olympic organising committee (BOCOG) has responded to the decision by Spielberg to pull out of his role as artistic advisor to the opening and closing ceremonies of the August 8-24 Games.

An official at BOCOG who asked not to be named said that a statement giving BOCOG's "definitive" response on Spielberg and Darfur had been drawn up and would be released later in the day.

However, he said that BOCOG was unaware of another potential embarrassment to the organisers of the Games.

Jacques Rogge, the Belgian head of the International Olympic Committee, has reportedly joined the campaign to force China to do more to end the conflict in Sudan's western region of Darfur.
Rogge's signature appeared at the end of a letter published Thursday in London's Independent newspaper from Nobel Prize winners and Olympic athletes urging Chinese President Hu Jintao to pressure Sudan to end atrocities in Darfur.

"As the primary economic, military and political partner of the government of Sudan, and as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China has both the opportunity and the responsibility to contribute to a just peace in Darfur," said the letter.

"Ongoing failure to rise to this responsibility amounts, in our view, to support for a government that continues to carry out atrocities against its own people."

Spielberg, in announcing his decision on Tuesday, said the international community, and particularly China, "should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering" in the western Sudanese region.

The United Nations estimates 200,000 people have died in Darfur from the combined effects of war, famine and disease since 2003, when a civil conflict erupted pitting government-backed Arab militias against non-Arab ethnic groups.

China is a major economic partner and supplier of arms to Sudan, which is in turn accused of backing militia forces responsible for much of the violence.

In a statement from its embassy in Washington, China rejected the link between Darfur and the Olympic Games.

"As the Darfur issue is not an internal affair of China, nor was it caused by China, to link the two together is utterly unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair," said the statement published in Beijing in Thursday's Global Times, a sister paper of the ruling Communist Party's People's Daily.

The embassy's statement echoes previous Chinese government statements when asked about its close ties with Khartoum.

China's state-run media, meanwhile, were largely silent about Spielberg's decision and the mounting preessure on Beijing over Darfur.

In communist-ruled China, the media is required to follow the government line, with mandated black-outs reserved for the most sensitive of issues.

With less than six months to go before the Games, Darfur is one of just many blackspots that threaten to tarnish the Olympics.

China's rule of Tibet, its relations with rival Taiwan and the government's alleged wide-ranging human rights abuses are among the other issues to have generated controversy.


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