China will be our biggest rival and our biggest trading partner for the rest of this century. Some believe that President Bush should use the Beijing Olympics against the Chinese to embarrass them and to score some political points about Tibet and Darfur. I think that is exactly the wrong approach.

I know it is politically correct to want to boycott the Olympics. I see the Hollywood actors and the long-haired activists who have disrupted the Olympic torch relay. I get what they are trying to do. And I think it is stupid.

The Olympics are not about politics. They are about sports. The Olympics is a set of games designed to bring people together, despite our political differences. When Jimmy Carter kept our Olympians home, I thought that was stupid (as did most of our Olympic athletes, who wanted to show the Russians that we could kick their asses). Using the Olympics to make political points offends me to no end.

When Gordon Brown says that he will boycott the opening ceremonies in Beijing, he reminds me of Jimmy Carter. He looks weak. He looks politically correct. I understand that Brown might want not to go to the opening ceremonies. They are long. They can be boring. He might have a weak bladder. But he shouldn’t play politics with the start of the Olympics.

When President Bush shows up for the Olympics, he will make two very important points. He will show that he respects the Chinese people. And he will show that he respects the purpose of the games. Both of these points will prove to be extraordinarily useful in the decades to come, as we continue to press the Chinese on fighting piracy and improving trade relations, and as we host our own games, hopefully in my hometown of Chicago.

We have a very complicated relationship with the Chinese. They have finally embraced the free market at our request, and it has worked beautifully for them (and for American consumers, I might add). Eventually, they will be forced to embrace freedom, because free markets beget freedom.

Boycotting any part of the Olympics is stupid. It is disrespectful to the spirit behind the games. And it will make us look mean and petty.