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How the Upcoming Beijing Olympics are Escalating Tensions Between the US and China

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing commence on February 4th and come to an end on February 20th of 2022. Despite a great amount of excitement amongst fans across the globe, some individuals have different opinions. In December of 2021, President Joe Biden announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. 

Over the last decade, tensions have grown between the U.S. and China. This year, President Biden’s main focuses include the supply chain and climate change, which are linked to China. The United States and China are the world’s two largest economies, and they now frequently have disputes concerning trade, military actions, and human rights issues. Advisers to the President have stated that China is engaging in genocide against Uyghurs, who form the Muslim ethnic group in Xinjiang, China. According to the U.S Holocaust Memorial Museum report, the Chinese government has attempted to forcibly assimilate the Uyghurs through forbidding religious expression. The report also cites forced sterilization, forced labor, and torture. Many have called on nations to act, including encouraging them to boycott the upcoming Olympics. 

The premise of President Biden’s diplomatic boycott is to not send any government officials to the 2022 Beijing Olympics which would send a message to China, while still ensuring that U.S. athletes can compete. Various human rights groups have lobbied to push the White House for a full boycott, which would not allow U.S. athletes to compete. This actually occurred historically during the 1980 Moscow Olympics under Jimmy Carter’s administration. The decision, however, is ultimately made by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which ended up declining the petition. 

To some, the Biden Administration’s boycott effort is not as effective as they had hoped. Support is not global; for example, France is sending diplomats to Beijing, reasoning that sports competitions should not be used to highlight human rights concerns. Additionally, South Korea has refused to participate in the Olympic boycott, citing their need for China’s help in denuclearization. Still, countries like Britain, Canada, and Australia have officially joined the U.S. boycott.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have expressed their frustration with U.S. allies not aligning their actions. Senator Richard Blumenthal, for example, stated that America’s allies are not as determined to stop the spread of Chinese propaganda. Many in America now fear that the U.S. may portray itself as isolated from an allyship with other nations. A root of this idea can be found from Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry who stated that “If the U.S. side is bent on going its own way, China will take firm countermeasures.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had been continuously advocating for a diplomatic boycott, expressed her frustration that China will still host the Olympics, and stated that “allowing a country notorious for its appalling human rights record to host the Olympics makes a mockery of the Olympic Charter, which states that the Games should seek to foster ‘respect for universal and fundamental ethical principles.’”

The Chinese government has further responded to the US decision for a diplomatic boycott by asserting that the U.S. is attempting to be politically manipulative. Zhao Lijian stated that “The US should stop politicizing sports and hyping up the so-called ‘diplomatic boycott’ so as not to affect China-US dialogue and cooperation in important areas.” China’s declaration of the boycott as an interference in internal affairs has also resulted in visa bans on U.S. politicians who, according to the Chinese government, are anti-China. News regarding the Beijing Olympics and the United States’ boycott is certainly worth keeping an eye on in the coming months. 

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