Andrew Nathan’s New Republic piece on China and its Olympic challenges is not to be missed. One of many money quotes:
This universal Chinese set-up–some scholars call it “de facto federalism”–has produced both China’s remarkable economic surge and its environmental disasters and rights abuses. The regime gives local officials full powers, and holds them accountable to achieve a short list of priority tasks. The key benchmarks are high economic growth, close conformity with mandated annual birth rates, and low levels of what the regime calls social disorder, such as demonstrations and episodes of collective petitioning. Having too many local citizens visit Beijing to petition national authorities counts as a black mark. To keep their records clean, according to a 2005 Human Rights Watch report, local officials send “retrievers” to Beijing forcibly to repatriate their local citizens who have gone there to petition. These well-dressed young men wait across the street from the petition offices with their car doors open, waiting to kidnap local citizens and bundle them home, often for terms of forced labor.
This is simply not a nation worthy of hosting the Olympic Games.