May 4, 2007

The key to ending genocide in Darfur: China

While organizations like our campus’s own Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) will continue to push for American institutional divestment and to argue and infight over how to spend President Zimmer’s “blood money,” the true key to solving the Darfur crisis remains ignored.

This key that will unlock the padlock on international action regarding the crisis in Darfur is China. While divestment from Sudan on the part of American institutions would be a step in the right direction, it would not be particularly productive on its own toward ending the killings. What is needed are true multilateral decisions that demonstrate to Sudan that the world disapproves of its actions. The only real way to force the Sudanese government to crack down on Janjuweed militias is through international sanctions and forcing peacekeepers into the troubled region.

China has been the only voice on the United Nations Security Council—which requires unanimous support by its five permanent members for any action—that has consistently dissented from the other four members on this critical issue. It has been the only voice that has not made any public calls for any action, whether it be sanctions against the regime in Sudan or sending in more peacekeepers. China’s has been the only voice that has failed to even acknowledge that this crisis in Darfur is genocide. The reasons for China’s dissent are not principled or ideological; they are pragmatic.

China has continued to prosper in recent years, nearly tripling the amount of privately owned automobiles in the last decade. This fact, along with increases in industrial productivity, has intensified its need for oil; this has forced China to make pragmatic concessions to terrible regimes that happen to have large amounts of oil. Sudan is just one of many nations China has decided to appease: It has continuously stalled Security Council action on Iran, has continued to prop up the murderous dictatorship in Niger, and has courted the influence of Hugo Chavez. Sudan, because of its perpetration of genocide, remains the most egregious example of China’s appeasement, but there is hope for those standing against the tides of history in opposing this genocide: the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Led by Mia Farrow, Steven Spielberg, and other concerned celebrities, UNICEF and Amnesty International have launched a grassroots campaign to put pressure on the Chinese government to halt their investments in Sudan and approve Security Council action on sanctions and international peacekeepers, or face international embarrassment and boycotts during the summer games.

Already, Spielberg, who had been the artistic director for the games, has threatened to pull out his involvement; in addition, many corporate sponsors have been pressured to boycott the games. An athletic boycott of the games by Western countries has not yet been proposed, but if enough countries are serious about pulling out, China might be forced to reconsider its position. This is because the 2008 Olympics remain intricately linked to China’s ambition of becoming a respected world power.

In fact, a clock ticks in Tiananmen Square announcing the minutes, hours, and days until these very historic games.

But if China is serious about becoming not just a powerful but a respected international actor, it must get serious about human rights, both in Sudan and within its own borders.

Although the University’s decision not to divest will remain controversial, it is far more important for STAND and other groups to press forward and put pressure on China, which is the true key to ending this conflict. Protesting at the Chinese consulate downtown, boycotting Chinese products, or raising awareness of China’s morally untenable position and linking it to the Olympics would all be proactive steps to take. The true blood money, after all, is flowing not from our campus walls, but through a Great Wall in China.