Stephen Spielberg is a Hollywood Heavyweight. His films are blockbusters, his pockets are deep, and when he talks, his voice echoes throughout the Hollywood Hills. But, when it comes to convincing China's president, Hu Jintao, to cinch his government's lucrative relations with blood-soaked Sudan, Speilberg's pleads have fallen on deaf ears.
Earlier this week Speilberg announced that he would withdraw his post as "artistic advisor" to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, blaming China's government of implicitly fueling the ongoing "genocide" Darfur.
Spielberg's complaints are not new, and, like any other flashy cause, a horde of his Hollywood Brethren have jumped on the bandwagon, declaring the 2008 Olympics the "Genocide Games." And insisting the international community step in and address China's draconian foreign policy.
It is true that China, pained by a recently insatiable appetite for oil, receives 2/3 of the oil that Sudan exports. The revenues from the oil trade fill Sudan's bank account and allow its Arab government to perpetrate genocidal raids against the (designated) rebellious African tribe s in the country's south and west. Spielberg, actor Don Cheadle, and actress Mia Farrow, also point out that China is the world's largest arms exporter to Sudan. Chinese guns, tanks, and helicopters pour into the country, while a portion of the revenues Sudan earned from its oil connections with China flows right back to the Chinese government.
In recent months, the Chinese government has taken baby steps to address the perceived injustice. It's pressured the Sudanese government to accept a U.N. peacekeeping force (which it has) and has promised to taper its dependence on Sudanese oil. But, for China, its dicey relationship with Darfur is merely the tip of a behemoth human-rights problem.
Thrust into a frothing, rabid tide of westernization, China's government has failed to ensure its own citizens are granted the most basic protections. Millions work absurdly long hours in conditions so dangerous, managers chalk casualties as overhead costs. The environment is being poisoned by long, black plumes of factory emissions and dangerous chemicals. A discernible prison system barely exists, torture is almost certainly used as a means of punishment, and health care facilities are lacking.
Although dubbing the Beijing Olympics the "Genocide Games" might be a bit extreme, China indeed has its work cut out for it. When the world's eyes focus on Beijing and the impending games, it will be up to China to demonstrate that it has addressed the issues that stain Tiananmen Square and somehow transform the Great Wall into something less magnificent.