The latter could also be described as a natural disaster, for what can a leader do if his nation dislikes China?
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko cancelled his visit to Beijing because of a disastrous flood in western Ukraine on August 6.
It was reported on the same day that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf would not go to Beijing either. A coalition of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) decided at its Tuesday meeting that the president can and should be impeached.
Musharraf in turn has convened his supporters to discuss their options.
This may be directly related to the Beijing Olympics. Musharraf now looks like a man whose situation is so bad that he cannot join the group of the world's top leaders who will gather in Beijing. That is a heavy blow to the Pakistani president's prestige and political standing.
Chinese diplomacy has created a situation where attending this topmost diplomatic gathering is a must. Despite attempts to put out the Olympic flame in Europe, the Beijing Games will go ahead. China has done better than the Soviet Union, whose 1980 Olympic Games were boycotted by many countries. This is not sport; this is global politics.
Beijing will welcome 205 teams and 16,000 athletes, which is significant, since there are only 191 UN member countries. The Beijing Olympics will be the largest in the history of the Games.
As many as 101 VIP flights will land in Beijing airport, which British architects fashioned to look like a dragon. The 80 heads of state and government and other visiting dignitaries will include U.S. President George W. Bush, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Britain's Princess Anne, Grand Duke Henri Albert of Luxembourg, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, and Qatar's Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim.
Another honored guest will be Henry Kissinger, who planned the mutual recognition of the United States and China, then a Communist state, in the 1970s.
This VIP group will have hundreds of bodyguards, including 600 from the United States and three teams of 100 elite security guards from China. The latter have been selected for special skills that could make even Jackie Chan, with his acrobatic fighting style, green with envy.
Some say the Chinese Army will place nice-looking female special troops on the streets of Beijing, but this is an unconfirmed rumor.
President Bush has done much to encourage foreign dignitaries to come to China, which, despite the hype, is not yet the world's largest economy. That title is still firmly held by the United States, which is why other countries look to it before taking their own decisions.
Shortly before his arrival in Beijing, Bush, currently on a visit to South Korea, ate Korean and American beef during an official party in Seoul.
This is interesting. The South Korean public, whose nerves have been frayed by the changes in Asia and the rest of the world, directed their displeasure with their pro-American president, Lee Myung-bak, at his decision to allow the import of American beef.
But the root cause for the Koreans' nervous reaction is quite different. They wonder how a world in which the Untied States and China may coexist as equal partners, possibly for some time, would look. And what can South Korea, Japan and other countries do in such a world? Will they be able to adjust to a decrease in their prestige?
What can Europeans do after they have almost, but not quite, forced some of their leaders to boycott the Beijing Olympics so as to teach the Chinese a lesson about European values? Who has given a lesson to who? And what can Europe do to avoid becoming a marginal region?
The get-togethers of the 80 dignitaries in Beijing are unlikely to become full-scale international meetings to discuss these and other important questions. They will definitely mingle and discuss problems, but the demonstrative effect of the events prepared by the Chinese will overshadow their efforts.
The Beijing Olympics can be described as "top-level Games with special features," as President Hu Jintao said on August 4. "We also hope the Games will demonstrate the sincere desire of the Chinese people... to be together with the rest of the world in building a bright future," he said.
He need not have said it. The world will see the effect of the Games and the Chinese' unrivalled ability to prepare such functions anyway.
The 1992 Games in Barcelona went down in the history of music thanks to the "Barcelona" single performed by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe.
The Beijing Olympics' theme song may be remembered simply as "Beijing," although its title and content so far remain a mystery. It will be presented by the British "angel of music," Sarah Brightman, and leading Chinese singer Liu Huan.
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