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Steven Spielberg: "Good Riddance"

“Good riddance.”

2. That has been the reaction of a large number of Chinese to the announcement of Hollywood film director Steven Spielberg that he has resigned as an artistic adviser to the forthcoming Beijing Olympic Games because of China’s continued support to the Sudan.

3. In a letter to the Chinese Ambassador in Washington and the Beijing Olympics Organising Committee released to the media on February 13,2008,he said that his “conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual” while China failed to use its economic, military and diplomatic ties with Sudan to end the crisis in Darfur. He added : “Sudan’s Government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes.But the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering there.”

4. The reactions of spokespersons of the Chinese Government and the Beijing Olympics Organising Committee to his surprise announcement have been measured and polite without any show of anger. They have explained the various measures which China has taken bilaterally and within the UN to contribute to the efforts of the international community to restore normalcy in the Darfur region and deplored the apparent attempts of some interested elements in the West—particularly in the US— to politicise the Olympics by linking the Games with political issues, which would be totally against the spirit of the Games.

5. Liu Jianchao, a spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said in Beijing: “It is understandable if they do not understand the Chinese Government policy on Darfur, but if they are politically motivated, we will not accept.” He added: “China has made unremitting efforts to resolve the Darfur issue, a fact that is obvious to anyone in the international community that is not biased against China. China helped push forward the Sudanese Government, African Union and United Nations reaching consensus on sending a peace-keeping force to Darfur.This did not come easily and our efforts have been recognized by the international community.In order to improve the humanitarian situation in Darfur, China has provided material assistance worth 80 million RMB (11 million U.S. dollars) to Darfur, 1.8 million U.S. dollars aid to African Union, and 500,000 U.S. dollars donation to the U.N. fund for solving Darfur issue. China has promised to send a 315-strong engineering unit to Darfur. A 140-member advance troop is already in Darfur, and more will be gradually deployed. Besides, China’s special representative has visited Sudan three times since taking office last May. Chinese enterprises in Sudan also provided much assistance and constructed many projects there. In recent years, Chinese companies have helped dig 46 wells, build 20 small-scale power plants in Darfur and water supply projects in southern and northern Darfur states, as well as provide teaching equipment. On the issue of Darfur, empty rhetoric will not help.What is most important is to do substantial things to promote peace process there and alleviate the humanitarian crisis.”

6. Concerned over the attempts of some anti-China elements in the US to exploit China’s close relations with the Government of Sudan for calling for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese Government has taken a number of steps since May last to remove misperceptions about its policies relating to Darfur. Similarly, to create a positive image of China, it has been playing a constructive role on the question of the denuclearisation of North Korea and nudging the military junta in Myanmar to receive the UN Special Representative and resume talks with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The US itself has praised China’s positive role on the issue of North Korea and UN officials have highlighted the constructive role played by Beijing in Myanmar in the wake of the large-scale demonstrations by the Buddhist monks last year.

7. In spite of this, Dream for Darfur, a U.S.-based rights group which is supported by Hollywood actress Mia Farrow, has been carrying on a campaign against China on the issue of its relations with the Sudan for the last one year and calling for a boycott of the Olympic Games if China does not change its policies. It was also exercising pressure on Spielberg to quit his job as the adviser to the organisers of the Games.

8. In April last year, the Beijing Olympics Organising Committee hired the services of Spielberg and Ric Burch, an Australian, to advise the organisers on how to choreograph the opening and closing ceremonies. Even at that time, Spielberg was under pressure from Mia Farrow and others not to accept the contract. Even though he must have been aware of the situation in Darfur, he resisted their pressure and accepted the high-paying contract and worked for nearly nine months accepting the emoluments offered by the Organising Committee. Suddenly,less than six months before the Games, his heart has started bleeding for the human rights of the people of Darfur and he has quit.

9. While the Chinese officials’ reactions have been polite, the reactions of the common Chinese people have been anything but polite. They have been criticising their own Government for inviting foreigners to advise them as to how to organise the opening and closing ceremonies when enough talent is available in China. Instead of making it an Olympics in Chinese Colours, they sought to make it an Olympics In Hollywood Colours or rather an Olympics in Spielberg’s Colours. And he has let them down very badly. Some are demanding that the Organising Committee should release to the media the text of the contract with Spielberg so that people can know how much he was paid.

10. Given below are some of the comments of ordinary Chinese which I picked up while going through the reactions in various Chinese Internet discussion groups:

  1. “First it was Prince Charles , now it is Spielberg . At this rate the Beijing Olympics will be the cleanest games of all time . These trash need to understand that it is the generosity of the Chinese government and people who allowed them the privilege of being involved. Charlie has nothing to offer at all and although Spielberg has some good form , it is not as if he knows anything about Chinese art and celebrations . Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

  2. “Darfur as a beating stick is so juvenile. This horrendous human tragedy has been in the making for a long time: long before China was even heard of in African affairs. The British colonized the place in !916 and they have neglected the infrastructure till independence in ’65 . The present conflict is the result of global warming, famine and survival. The Europeans, Americans and Brits have had their paws all over the oil and other resources for the past centuries. They are the most influential powers and they have happily sold arms to them for years. Suddenly, Farrow and Spielberg cooked and sexed up this Hollywood block buster and accuse China of ” failing to use her close connections with the Sudanese government ” to alter the course of events ! Whatever happened to the shrinking violets and coy maidens called USA , UK & Europe ? Whatever happened to the UN and its peace keeping responsibilities ?”

  3. “This is an example of grasping at straw. Instead of looking into the mirror and see who those ugly ducklings are , this convenient finger pointing is too cute by half. China has business relationship with every country on earth : so has the US , UK and others.”

  4. “It is the measure of the Western supremacist attitude and thinking that they feel this will be a ” blow ” to the Chinese . No sir , it is NOT Some Chinese may have heard of Farrow and Spielberg, most don’t recognize them from a bar of soap !”

  5. “It is that old time colonial mentality that if the whites pull out or do not ‘help’ the Chinese will not know what to do . Well buddy baby, they do , and they will do much better without your ‘help’.”

11. Having tasted blood,the group led by Mia Farrow is planning to approach all Western corporate sponsors of the Beijing Olympics and pressurise them to withdraw from their sponsorship. Some Chinese are now expecting the heart of Richard Gere, another Hollywood actor close to the Dalai Lama, to start bleeding for the human rights of the Tibetans. Unlike Spielberg, he has not accepted any contract from the Games Organisers, but he and other-linked people in Hollywood and outside are expected to try to embarrass the Chinese by organising demonstrations when the Olympic flame comes to the US and India as well as during the Games at Beijing itself.

12. A number of other groups in the US are also trying to embarrass the Chinese over issues such as human rights and religious freedom in China and freedom of the media. The Chinese have assured all participating countries that their team members would be provided all facilities for their prayers and allowed to bring their personal copies of their religious books, but they would not be allowed to bring extra copies for distribution to the public. These groups are wanting to create an embarrassing situation by smuggling in extra copies and distributing them and also by gifting to their interlocutors T-shirts with the picture of the Dalai Lama.

13. Western business houses are very keen that no attempt should be made to politicise the Games. President Bush has already announced that he would attend the Games. The business houses do not want any damage to their vast business interests in China. Moreover, this is the first time in the history of the Olympics that the games are being held in a country with a population of over a billion with a vast consumer market. This provides these business houses with an additional opportunity for the exposure of their products to the Chinese consumers. They feel uncomfortable with the attempts of the China-baiters in the non-governmental community to needle China before and during the Games.

14. The intelligence and security agencies of the Western countries have assured the Chinese of all co-operation to prevent any terrorist threat to the Games. Robert Mueller, the Director of the USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), visited Beijing for three days in the last week of January for discussions with Chinese police, intelligence and security officials. He told the media: ” My concern is to ensure that the 2008 Olympics are not a target for terrorist attacks. China’s leaders are doing a good job making Olympic venues secure.I am very much impressed by the preparations that have been made to accomplish that, and I fully anticipate that the Olympics will be secure and safe.We are concerned about foreign threats, which is why it is tremendously important for us to share intelligence with regard to threats that may be originating outside China, as China itself addresses threats from within the country.The Olympics are an opportunity for my agency to further enhance its relationship with its Chinese counterparts. I hope this cooperation on counter-terrorism will last well past the Games.” (17-2-08)

(The writer, Mr.B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

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