Andrew Nathan and the Olympics

In the Hutong

Learning to type while horizontal

2040 hrs.

In the thin guise of reviewing six books about China and the Olympics, Columbia University professor Andrew Nathan writes a lengthy and impassioned critique of human rights in China. Nathan holds senior positions with Human Rights Watch and Human Rights in China, and in writing in The New Republic he is preaching his gospel to a receptive congregation.

Whether you agree with Nathan’s opinions or not, the essay deserves a read, if nothing else because it spells out succinctly the position of human rights advocates on the nature of government in China. Nathan sees the Chinese government as a vast, crafty conspiracy serving interested in nothing but its own survival, and he sees the Chinese people as alternately cowed by corrupt government bullies and anesthetized by the superficial trappings of economic success.

(Nathan stops just short of acknowledging that the advocates of human rights – and he, by extension – engage in their own form of reality distorting propaganda. A nice touch.)

In short, it is not a balanced appraisal, but it is one that for the sake of balance demands our attention.