China Demonstrates Why Dictatorial Regimes Always Lose

I remember reading about how Saddam and his two insane sons would torture professional soccer players when they lost. Aside from the sheer horror described by the people who endured the abuse, it struck me as supremely stupid to expect players to perform their best when they cowered in fear.

Communist leadership in Eastern block countries before the wall came down and Russia and the fascists in Germany, Italy and Japan before them, just didn’t get it. National pride is fine and dandy, but if the athletes aren’t competing for the love, for themselves, the game will be a losing proposition.

At the Olympic level, the athletes excel physically and genetically and discipline-wise. Often what separates winners and losers is psychological and emotional: mental stamina and courage. A terrified athlete running away from losing is not the same as an excited athlete running towards winning.

So China harasses their athletes. Some kids who have worked their whole lives were just booted from the team. Other athletes who deeply desire retirement are being forced to compete. Does this sound like a winning formulation to you?

Although China is determined to top the medal tables at the Beijing Games next month, its sports administration has taken the draconian decision to drop 22 gold-medal winning athletes.
China won a total of 32 golds in Athens, and is hoping to top the 40 mark in Beijing.

Some of the athletes were forced out by injuries or strong competition, but the China Daily newspaper, thought to be the mouthpiece of the government, also said “politics” had played a part.

“There were some surprising exclusions … who would have a realistic shot at winning gold next month,” the paper said.

The most obvious political victim was Tian Liang, nicknamed the “diver prince” after winning gold medals in the ten-metre platform dive at both the Sydney and Athens Olympics.

Tian, 28, was kicked off the national team in 2005 for unashamedly endorsing everything from wooden floors to seafood snacks. “He was producing a negative influence on the preparation for the 2008 Olympics,” said a sports official.

He also hit the gossip columns for his relationship with fellow diver Guo Jingjing and they were dubbed the “Posh and Becks” of Chinese sport. She managed to stay on the team after she publicly denounced her behaviour.

Since then, Tian has tried to rehabilitate his career by competing at provincial level and refusing to criticise the administration for what happened. He carried the Olympic torch as it passed through Xi’an. However, he was still left out of the team and has voiced his “regrets”.

Yeah, China will win loads of medals by kicking their superstars off the team because they don’t toe the party line. But this is why these regimes die anyway.

When people are restricted from pursuing their dreams because some bureaucrat believes his talents lie elsewhere, people give up. A whole society of people not invested in their own success won’t be invested in the country’s success. So, the dictators get the exact opposite of what they hope for. Domination can come at the point of a gun, but sustained success and winning comes from from freedom and love.

Cross-posted at

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