Wednesday, April 2, 2008

China's Choice

Two days ago the English edition of the Joongang Ilbo, one of Korea's major daily newspapers, published my op-ed piece entitled "China's Choice." It addresses the dilemma faced by the government in Beijing as the Summer Olympics approach. Namely, efforts to suppress the free flow of news and information about Tibet and the 1989 uprising in Tienanmen Square will also undermine China's efforts to project a positive image to the world through the 2008 Olympics. In the Spring of 1987 the South Korean government faced a similar dilemma before the 1988 Seoul Olympics. It chose a path of political liberalization that also energized the nation's economy. Today there are media reports that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has warned China against any attempt to restrict internet access by the international media during the 2008 Olympics. Indeed, if China attempts to carry its "Great Firewall of China" policy into the Olympics it will strike at the heart of the modern Olympic Games, which are essentially a global television and media celebration of sport. More importantly, efforts to control or channel modern networked media will inevitably stifle China's ambitious economic goals. The government in Beijing is indeed, caught on the horns of a dilemma.

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