Sochi: A Global Reminder of the Fundamental Cultural Differences between the East and West?

12 Feb
China’s President Xi Jinping meeting Russian Leader Vladimir Putin in Sochi

China’s President Xi Jinping meeting Russian Leader Vladimir Putin in Sochi

The launching of one of the most controversial Winter Olympic Games, came last week with the opening ceremony in Sochi Russia. The Russian winter Olympics have provided a worldwide catalysis that has drawn attention to the lack of human rights and most specifically lack of gay rights within the country. With numerous boycotts, protest and petitions around the world it lead to the symbolic attempts of the Kremlin to smooth anger ahead of the games by the release 2,000 prisoners including the high profile pussy riot cases. Despite, as highlighted by Flood and Walker (2014), they were wrongly arrested in the first place.

Based on these issues many western world leaders such as Barack Obama and David Cameron chose not to attend the opening ceremony.  This boycotting was heavily criticised by Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee (Walker, 2014)

China’s President Xi Jinping chose to attend in an explicit act of support for Vladimir Putin echoing the support shown by Russia in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (Xinhua, 2014)

“Sochi is now covered with snow and ice, but Sino-Russian ties remain warm”

Ruan Zongze in Beijing’s People’s Daily (Zurcher, 2014)

This symbolic development in this bi-lateral tie is important in highlighting the extreme differing social attitudes that are developing between the East and West (BBC News, 2014)

Like Russia, China has long been under the human rights spot light with controversial events in its modern history such as the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and more recently the treatment of Tibet. The authoritarian state has implemented policies that would be unheard of in western states, such as the one child policy. The lack of freedom of speech even in the 21st century, is perfectly shown by the presence of the “Great Firewall of China” which blocks thousands of sites and helped along by thousands of cyber-police. (BBC News, 2012)

In the diplomatic western world freedom of speech is taken very much for granted, and is only being furthered by the advance of the totally uncensored and unregulated online world. This symbolic support between two nations where freedom of speech and livelihoods is an ideal only dreamt of by its people, is a step back in equality and freedom for the global population.

BBC News (2014) China media: Sochi diplomacy. Available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-26079430 [Accessed 11 February 2014]

BBC News(2012) China profile: Media. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13017881 [Accessed 11 February 2014]

Flood, A. & Walker, S. (2014) Sochi 2014: world authors join protest against Putin. The Guardian, 6 Feb.  Available from  http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/feb/06/sochi-games-anti-gay-blasphemy-laws-russia-putin-letter-writers [Accessed 11 February 2014]

Walker, S (2014) Sochi Winter Olympics: who is going to the opening ceremony? The Guardian, 5 Feb. Available at   http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/05/western-leaders-boycott-sochi-winter-olympics [Accessed 11 February 2014]

Zurcher, A. (2014) Sochi Olympic success: Russia and the West have differing views. BBC News, 8 Feb. Available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-echochambers-26092729 [accessed 11 February 2014]

Xinhua (2014) Xi’s Trip to Sochi supports Olympics, boosts China-Russia ties. People’s Daily Online, 21 Jan. Available at http://english.people.com.cn/90883/8518721.html [Accessed 11 February 2014]

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