The Olympic torch is in California and is to be carried through San Francisco today. In a resolution criticizing China, Chris Daly, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, said that demonstrating against the torch relay would "provide the people of San Francisco with a lifetime opportunity to help 1.3 billion Chinese people gain more freedom and rights." To his credit, Mayor Gavin Newsom did not sign Daly's resolution.
This statement could not be further from reality. For one thing, the Chinese are a proud people. They want freedom and greater rights, but they know they must fight for them from within. They know that no one can grant them freedom and rights from afar. The stigma of Western imperialism and the Opium Wars also remains a strong reminder of the past, and Chinese people do not want their domestic policies to be dictated by outside powers. They also do not want the United States to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Games. The U.S. boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow and the Soviet boycott of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles accomplished nothing. A U.S. boycott of the opening ceremonies in Beijing would be counterproductive for relations between the two countries.
For decades, anti-China human rights groups in Washington have spent millions of dollars denouncing China. To many Chinese, it seems that this lobby is the only voice that's acceptable or newsworthy in the U.S. media and to the U.S. government. But times are changing. We need to be open-minded and farsighted. We need to make more friends than enemies. Remember what a little ping-pong game did for Sino-U.S. relations in the 1970s? Let's celebrate the Olympics for what the Games are meant to be -- a bridge for friendship, not a playground for politics.
The writer is an actress and director. She became a U.S. citizen in 1989.