Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Even the Communists' friends are taking it on the chin

The Beijing Olympics is on the way to becoming a surprising disappointment for the Chinese Communist Party, as the expected complaints about human rights (BBC, Boycott 2008, and The Epoch Times) were complemented by outrage over the cadres telling a seven-year-old girl she was too ugly to go onstage (Epoch Times) and the fact that most rural Chinese were not paying attention to the propaganda. The cadres still have the last few days (Epoch Times) and the closing ceremony, but it appears unlikely to change the very bad dynamic for them.

Today's more surprising sign that things are indeed changing is the dramatic fall from grace of one of Communist China's best friends - former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Chretien recently blasted current PM Stephen Harper for not showing up in Beijing (CanWest Global) and granting honorary citizenship to the Dalai Lama. Now, for those of us who've been watching the Liberal Party of Canada, this is standard "engagement" stuff. The reaction to it was something else again.

Chretien probably expected a tame reaction from Harper et al, especially with his old Grit caucus buddy David Emerson know in place as Foreign Minister. However, Harper handed the Chretien reaction file not to Emerson, but to anti-Communist Jason Kenney - and Kenney said a mouthful (Globe and Mail):

"I think it reconfirms that Mr. Chrétien and the Liberals have always pursued a policy in this area calculated to their own personal financial interests and those of rich and powerful friends," Mr. Kenney said yesterday.

"It's no mistake that Mr. Chrétien was calculating his retirement income in his relations in this area. [It was] a few weeks after he left the premiership that he was being signed on as a consultant to multinational companies with commercial interests in this area. ..."

Mr. Kenney was clearly referring to Power Corp., the conglomerate founded by Paul Desmarais Sr. His son, André Desmarais, now the co-CEO, is married to Mr. Chrétien's daughter, France, and Mr. Chrétien's long-time campaign manager and adviser, John Rae, is a senior Power executive.

Mr. Chrétien travelled to China two months after leaving office accompanied by Power executives, and has returned several times to represent business clients.

That Kenney would have free reign to criticize Chretien so strongly - and that the Globe and Mail would also criticize Chretien in an editorial the day before (G&M's coverage also surprised Kate from Small Dead Animals) - is a powerful symbol of how things have changed up there (The Halifax Chronicle-Herald was even more critical of Chretien, but I doubt it has much resonance outside of Atlantic Canada).

It may (stress, may) very well be that the weakness of these Olympics - from the propaganda perspective - is taking its toll on the entire "engagement" apparatus. Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post actually wrote about the economic threat from Communist China (although it wasn't his first time), which is exactly what the cadres had hoped would not be discussed during the Games. What was supposed to be a barrier to the Communist regime's perfidy (for animal abuses, see World Net Daily; overseas intimidation, Epoch Times; Taiwan, Weekly Standard; and North Korea, One Free Korea) has instead become a magnet for them.

Nazi Germany was destroyed nine years after the 1936 Olympics, but the Games themselves were a boon to Hitler's regime. Moscow's 1980 Olympiad was tarnished by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the resulting boycott that was reflective of a more resolute free world, which helped bring the USSR down in eleven years. Whatever one thought of the 2008 Games (an "engagement" opportunity or a propaganda bonanza), just about everyone assumed they would be a success for the Communists. Yet not only are the Games looking more and more like a failure, but they may be a failure that damages "engagement" itself, and gives anti-Communism a surprising chance at revival. This may be a decade for hope after all.

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