Chinese officials and state media on Wednesday warned the Biden administration not to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights complaints, claiming such a boycott would “damage the spirit of the Olympic Charter” and inflict severe economic and political damage on the weakened United States.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claimed allegations of Chinese abuses against Tibet, Hong Kong, and the Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang province are false and warned of a “robust Chinese response” to any boycott.
“The politicization of sports will damage the spirit of the Olympic Charter and the interests of athletes from all countries. The international community, including the U.S. Olympic Committee, will not accept it,” Zhao said.
China’s state-run Global Times instructed the Biden administration to ignore “anti-China hawks” who are trying to pressure Western governments into boycotting the Olympics, and crowed that the United States no longer has the economic strength or prestige to lead a boycott movement.
After quoting “Chinese experts” who dismissed all human rights allegations against Beijing as “stigmatization” and “lies,” and predicted fickle activists would soon get tired of fighting the Chinese Communist Party’s diplomatic and propaganda counter-offensive, the Global Times said no one would risk alienating China and losing access to its “rising market for winter sports products.”
The Global Times approvingly cited a Newsweek article by Johns Hopkins professor David Lampton that argued China has grown too powerful to embarrass or punish with sanctions:
“Given the modern realities of Chinese global economic integration, today we can expect much more resistance to the boycott idea. Washington could well find itself the majorette for a marching band that is going in an entirely different direction,” he wrote.
In 2008, anti-China forces like some Western politicians and Tibet separatists tried to play the same trick to boycott the Beijing Olympics, but eventually, they failed.
“Most major states will participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics … One key difference between now and 2008 is that today’s China feels much stronger diplomatically and economically than it did more than a decade ago,” wrote Lampton.
The Global Times described the Biden administration as “cautious” about the Beijing Olympics, but “confused” would be a better term. As the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) noted, the administration went from floating the idea of a boycott to denying it had ever discussed the possibility in a span of hours on Tuesday.
Another Global Times editorial on Wednesday derided “ridiculous notions and ideas” from Western politicians, such as “skipping the event, including changing the venue, asking athletes not to attend the event, calling on media distributor NBC Universal not to air the games, and pressuring businesses from sponsoring the event.”
The Communist paper sneered that American corporations are in no shape to join a boycott that could cost them billions by locking them out of Chinese markets:
Beyond the potential impact on the sports world, the radical calls are also causing burden on global businesses, which could result in heavy economic losses. Olympic sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Visa, General Electric and other multinational corporations, which count on the Winter Olympics to gain greater market share in the massive Chinese market, are now caught in the crossfire.
According to media reports, some anti-China forces have started harassing these sponsors “one by one”. Last month, a public letter asked Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky to withdraw its Olympic sponsorship or risk reputational damage. A similar letter has also been reportedly sent to Mars Wrigley CEO Grant Reid.
As these Western forces try to use Xinjiang-related affairs to further intensify the division and confrontation between China and the West, they create huge risks to economic and trade cooperation as well as foreign companies’ businesses in China. Some have already warned that if Western companies bow to the pressure and decide to boycott the Beijing Olympics, they could face serious consequences in the Chinese market.
The Global Times pointed to recent Chinese boycotts against Western companies that dared to criticize forced labor in Xinjiang province as an example of China successfully using its economic power to control foreign corporations – phrased, of course, as a “widespread backlash from the Chinese public” against apparel brands that refused to buy Xinjiang cotton due to “lies” about forced labor.
The Global Times warned:
With more than 10 months to go before the 2022 Olympics, anti-China forces will likely continue their boycott plot with endless slandering and smearing. But responsible countries and companies should keep sober and not to be carried away. Politicizing sports and commercial cooperation will only lead to ruinous consequences for all.
The problem facing President Joe Biden is he claims his predecessor Donald Trump’s approach to China was wrong, and he can build better diplomatic and economic relations with the CCP. However, he also claims he will relentlessly badger the Chinese about human rights and as the Chinese made very clear in their fiery Alaska confrontation with Biden officials, they will not accept even tepid or purely rhetorical human rights criticism from Biden.
The bungled boycott messaging from Biden officials on Tuesday that prompted China’s threats and commands was, according to the WSJ, mostly about discussions of a possible “diplomatic boycott,” which means the U.S. would fully participate in the Beijing Olympics but would refrain from sending high-level officials to observe the event. Another idea floated by Congress is to require all American competitors to receive a briefing on China’s human rights abuses and the risks its surveillance-obsessed regime poses to their personal security while they attend the Games.
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