Each Games is a five-track circus of politics, money, big business, nationalism, and high-powered diplomatic signaling that puts the prestige of the leaders who fought to host them at stake. Thus, reports that the United States may mount a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February suggest a just geopolitics that overshadows sledding, ice dancing and alpine skiing.
The Beijing Summer Games in 2008 heralded China’s emergence as a developing force. Next year’s Winter Games will be a platform from which to announce your arrival as a world power. But US President Joe Biden is under pressure from human rights activists and members of Congress to skip the Games and withdraw the entire official US diplomatic delegation, due to Beijing’s crackdown on Uighur Muslims. in Xinjiang province.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week that the United States was also discussing what to do with its allies, hinting at an even broader front. Such a diplomatic boycott would deprive President Xi Jinping of some of the glory of hosting the world’s top leaders in a brilliant gathering while accumulating internal power.
A diplomatic boycott would also have the advantage of making a point without harming the athletes. A generation of competitors on both sides of the world remembers the American sports boycott of the Moscow Summer Games in 1980 and the Eastern bloc’s no-show in Los Angeles in 1984 as tragedies.
In 2008, then-President George W. Bush agonized before accepting then-President Hu Jintao’s invitation to attend the opening ceremony of the Summer Games amid calls to boycott China’s repression in Tibet and his support for Sudan in amidst atrocities in Darfur. At the time, the United States was still trying to balance criticism of China in hopes of positively influencing its behavior.
This time around, ties are at their lowest point since the US and China established diplomatic ties in 1978. Attendance at the Games did not come between Biden and Xi during their marathon conversation on Monday, according to US officials, but it would be a real challenge. surprise if Biden ends up making the trip across the Pacific.