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Election brings new round of Olympic China-bashing

By Barry Cunningham  (Global Times)

09:07, July 20, 2012

As the clock ticks down to the start of the London Olympic Games, American patriotism is being exploited by commercial advertisers in ways not seen since - well, not since the Beijing Olympic Games. Unlike China, the US government does not subsidize Olympic athletes. Instead, what we see on our TV screens right now is a blur of Olympic rings by "official sponsors" using sports to sell everything from sugary soft drinks to baby diapers.

Patriotism glorifies many virtues, best symbolized by the blood, sweat and tears of Olympic athletes striving to bring honor to their homeland. Of course, patriotism sells political ideas, too. So it was inevitable that the hypocrisy of Olympic advertising has collided with political hypocrisy over the uniforms of the US Olympic team.

The irony that the red, white and blue outfits were made in China while the American textile industry is struggling to stay alive proved irresistible to Washington DC lawmakers. One Democratic leader suggested that the "made in China" outfits be burned and replaced by "made in US" uniforms.

By the end of the week, six Democratic senators fanned the flames by saying they would introduce a bill requiring that all US ceremonial uniforms be sewn and assembled in the US.

As political theater, this effort to disguise protectionism as patriotism is as comical as an emcee doing a striptease to divert attention from trouble backstage.

Forget the principle that our government isn't supposed to get involved in the Olympics.

If the Democrats can switch the spotlight from athletic competition in London to global competition in "free market" manufacturing, they know the whole world will be watching.

Deep down, we know that this political "anger" in Washington is pandering for the votes of 30 million unemployed American workers.

"So what else is new?" is the most common reaction I've heard from friends who shrug off the Team USA uniforms as another "made in China" punch line for TV comedians.

This is no laughing matter for the Democrats. They are playing hardball to get US President Barack Obama reelected. The "made in China" show comes during Republican candidate Mitt Romney's worst week on the campaign trail.

The political circus even features a song. Romney sings an off-key version of our national anthem in a Democratic TV attack ad that superimposes claims that as the Bain Capital CEO, he outsourced jobs to China and kept his holdings in a Swiss bank account.

US Securities and Exchange Commission documents revealed last week show that Romney was listed as CEO and single shareholder of the capital investment firm at a time when Bain was shutting down distressed US factories and outsourcing American jobs to Mexico and China.

The fact that Romney has repeatedly denied he was a job-killer gives the Democrats an added opportunity to reinforce the word "outsourcing" on the world stage in London.

Many American brand names, has virtually all of its sportswear manufactured in China.

Americans don't begrudge the Chinese sweatshop worker his livelihood. We respect anyone who sacrifices personal happiness for a factory job to feed his family. And we've had 15 years to accept the reality that without those "made in China" tags, the clothing racks would be empty in our department stores.

Yes, China-bashing as a political sport is popular in the US and patriotism will always trump protectionism in the US.

The controversial fashion statement at the Olympics may be a political comedy-of-errors, but only the presidential election in November will decide who gets the last laugh.


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