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Mark Leonard is Executive Director of the first pan-European think-tank, the European Council on Foreign Relations. It was launched in late 2007 with backing from the Soros Foundations Network, Fride,[…]

Mark Leonard discusses the possibility of the Beijing Olympics acting as a catalyst for both dissent and reform.

Question: Will the Beijing Olympics change Chinese policy?
Mark Leonard:  It’s very difficult to predict what’s going to happen.  But we’ve already seen disruptions in Tibet, people taking advantage of the exposure which China’s had.  And also even before the

events in Tibet, the fact that China was going to get the Olympics drew attention to Chinese policies in other parts of the world, like Sudan and Darfur, and the actions of people like Mia Farrow and Steven Spielberg did cast a spotlight on Chinese foreign policy and its consequences around the world.  I think what we’re seeing with the Olympics is that China is getting prime time attention from the world media.  People are asking much more difficult questions of it, and the Chinese haven’t really worked out how to respond to that, and that, I think, is a very positive thing.  I’m not sure exactly how it will develop.  I think certainly within China it’s unlikely, the Olympics is unlikely to have a great liberalizing effect, because the Chinese government still is very much in control of information.  It knows where everyone lives, and is going to go to great lengths to make sure that there aren’t any big disruptions.  But the added scrutiny of Chinese policies in the rest of the world I think could be a positive thing.  And it already has led to some sort of tactical shifts on issues like Darfur.