Chinese Cheating

Who, I wonder, is surprised that the Chinese have flouted the rules and allowed gymnasts under 16 to compete in the Olympics?

I think the lesson to be learned here is that unenforceable laws only serve to benefit the unscrupulous.

I would advocate getting rid of this age limit. This would help to make the competition more fair. The intent of the rule, they say, was to keep girls under 16 from getting hurt. But I find it hard to believe that young gymnasts will train any less hard, or push themselves any less in the competitions in which they are allowed to participate.

The same lesson should be learned and applied in contexts beyond the Olympics. Remember the our treaty with the USSR to stop producing biological weapons? They kept right on producing them, of course, while the USA actually followed the treaty and stopped. Remember Carter's disastrous agreement with North Korea during the Clinton Administration? Who was surprised when the North Koreans took our aid money and kept right on going with their nuclear program?

Consider international environmental agreements. It doesn't seem to register with people who advocate greenhouse gas treaties that these treaties are essentially unenforceable. Does anyone believe that China's emissions could be verified by some inspection process? I don't believe that any international agency would have the manpower or funding to do so. Nor do I think that such an agency would be insusceptible to bribes.

Suppose the US and China enter into a greenhouse gas agreement. Compare what would happen in the US:

A Federal agency within the US government comes up with a plan to reduce emissions. Emitters such as power plants and factories are required to report their emissions. The agency enforces its regulations through some sort of financial penalties. Environmental watchdog groups make sure that the agency follows through, using the Freedom of Information Act to request copies of industries' reports, and suing the industries and the Federal agency if they detect non-compliance. Reports in the free press highlight failures in the system, and the people demand action. The US economy takes a hit from the additional cost associated with meeting the new regulations.
to what would happen in China:

No real actions to reduce emissions are taken. The day before the annual report is due, a bureaucrat somewhere within the Chinese government fills out a form showing that China not only met its goal, but exceeded the goal by 5%. Meanwhile, a statement by the propaganda minister is prepared for publication in China's government run newspapers heralding this great success and scolding the corrupt West for falling short.
If we feel that reducing greenhouse gasses is the right, i.e. moral, thing to do, and we are willing to let the Chinese get a competitive advantage, then let's go ahead and cut our emissions. But let's not kid ourselves about what China and other dictatorships would do under an international agreement.