President Bush, who throughout the crisis-in-the-making seemed as scripted as an Oscar presenter at the Academy Awards, spoke sternly to the Chinese once the American crew was in safe hands. "The kind of incident we have been through does not advance a constructive relationship between our countries," he said.
But shortly after the scolding was over, the Administration on Apr. 17 signaled that it would for the moment refrain from selling advanced radar equipment to Taiwan -- which Beijing had warned against. And recognizing Bush for the free-trader that he is, China probably never even feared that the White House would attempt to thwart its entry into the World Trade Organization.
Certainly, the Chinese might still be concerned about a conservative backlash in Congress, but odds are that with Corporate America and the Administration committed to globalization, the long march toward membership in the WTO will soon be over.
INTERNATIONAL PROVOCATEUR. So the Gargantua of Asia can cripple an American plane flying in international air space, hold a crew of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen captive for 11 days while demanding an undeserved apology, and refuse to immediately return a $100 million aircraft that took refuge within its borders after following a universally accepted emergency landing procedure. And all with impunity.
Well, it's time to send China a message. No threats, no saber-rattling, no hints at economic sanctions. But a message that says China is an international provocateur that throws its weight around Asia and sells arms to global pariah states. That says China is a human-rights abuser of the first order that persecutes scholars, people who speak their mind, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, and members of other sects. That says China is governed by a repressive and dishonest regime that should not be honored any more than the generals of Burma or the warlords of Somalia.
And how does the world send that message? Deny China the 2008 Olympics. For Beijing, winning the Games means far more than the marketing and economic bonanza that can accompany a well-run spectacle. For Beijing, for China, for the Communist Party, selection as the site of the Games would signal acceptance and approval by the family of nations. It would stamp an imprimatur on a government as brutal in its state control as the one that hosted the 1936 Olympics.
ELECTRIC GENERAL. Already, bills are moving through Congress that would urge the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to bypass Beijing. Of course, the scandal-ridden IOC -- controlled by a reconstructed Falangist functionary and featuring at least one ex-spymaster among its members -- is not exactly a model of rectitude. But at its 112th annual meeting on July 13 to 16 in Moscow, when it is is scheduled to select the site of the 2008 Games, the IOC has a opportunity to clear its record and act with courage.
And so do American multinationals whose dollars support the Olympic Movement -- so-called Top Partners like Coke, McDonald's, John Hancock, Time, Sports Illustrated, Kodak, Visa, and Xerox. But perhaps the most influence over the IOC lies with NBC, which coughed up $705 million for the 2000 Sydney Games and has exclusive American TV rights to the Olympics through 2008.
NBC, as every MBA candidate knows, is a unit of General Electric. And General Electric has an electric general named Jack Welch. So when you get right down to it, the fate of the 2008 Olympics could be in the hands of a corporate legend nicknamed Neutron Jack who is about to retire. If Jack does the right thing, Beijing probably won't get the Games. He'll probably have to scratch China off his golden years itinerary. But the golf courses aren't exactly Pebble Beach, anyway. Scotti, senior editor for government and sports business, offers his views every week in A Not-So-Neutral Corner, only for BW Online