Regrettably, the Beijing Olympic Games will provide strong validation to China's own particularly virulent brand of Maoist totalitarianism. It was not supposed to be this way.
The International Olympic Committee awarded the 1988 games to South Korea, which promised to clean up its totalitarian act. South Korea's brutal authoritarian regime did indeed call for direct elections. The result has been a textbook democratic transformation.
Naively thinking it could make democratic lightening strike twice, the IOC awarded China the 2008 Games after China promised a more open system. Regrettably, all we have seen is an even more ruthless repression.
Tibet is just the tip of the Chinese jackboot. Muslims in the western Xinjiang Autonomous Region are routinely brutalized, as are practitioners of Falun Gong. And millions of people at the bottom of the social scale have been roughly evicted from Beijing to make way for the Games.
Beyond its borders, China also regularly uses its U.N. veto power to support everything from genocide in Darfur and Burma and nuclear proliferation in Iran to the looting of Zimbabwe by its ruling elites - all for China's access to oil and natural resources.
As the Games begin amidst a tsunami of pomp and propaganda, it is essential to remember the broader political context under which they will be conducted.
Peter Navarro is a business professor at the UC Irvine and author of "The Coming China Wars."
This article appeared on page G - 5 of the San Francisco Chronicle