US Boycotts Chinese Winter Olympics


Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Snow sits upon the Olympic rings in Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Olympics.

Brandon Level

White House and its Allies Announce Beijing Winter Olympic Boycott

On December 6th of last year, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki held a press conference detailing the new Beijing Olympics Diplomatic boycott. This is a move that hasn’t been made since 1980 when the US, along with 44 other countries, boycotted the Russian Olympics in protest of the Afghanistan invasion.

The United States is not alone in their calls to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics this year. Three allies of the US– Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom–all followed Washington on Dec. 8th, just two days after the White House originally announced the boycott. 

Leaders taking part in the boycott have all released statements explaining why they are taking part in the boycott.

Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, said “We’ve been quite explicit about our grave concerns about human rights issues for many years.”

Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, commented about the “the human rights abuses in Xinjiang,” saying that “the Chinese government has continually refused to take those opportunities for us to meet about these matters.”

When asked if Britain would follow the diplomatic boycotts, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “There will be basically a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing…No ministries or officials are scheduled to attend.” 

It is to be noted that France, Germany, and Japan have all released statements regarding the upcoming Olympics, but they don’t plan to boycott the event yet.

What exactly is a diplomatic boycott? Will Team USA still compete? 

A diplomatic boycott is more for putting on a show, or symbolism, rather than actually achieving something. It snubs the host country of the Olympics and can demoralize their fanbase. All the boycotts will really do is cancel any plans the U.S. had to send diplomats to Beijing to support our athletes this Winter. Psaki, however, noted that Team USA has “our full support” and that “we will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games.” 

Where does Team USA lie in the midst of this diplomatic boycott? The United States still plans on sending all of their athletes–along with the other three countries previously noted. This is a diplomatic boycott after all, and only diplomats to the above countries will be affected, not their athletes. The last time U.S. athletes didn’t compete was in 1980 when they protested Russia’s Afghanistan invasion. The athletes were upset, and this was a politically motivated move, as their goal was most likely to get Russia to remove their troops from the area. This resulted in not a good look on the international stage.

The IOC, International Olympic Committee, stated that the they maintain “political neutrality” in this situation, as they are required to under the Olympic Charter, or rules.

Member of the IOC, Juan Antonio Smaranch, reminded the world that the IOC is not political stating, “We always ask for as much respect as possible from the political world and the least interference in our sports and Olympic world and ideals.”

What is China’s Response to the Boycotts

The US–being the dominant world superpower– is sending a big message to the world about China’s current standing.

Some Chinese spokespeople are very upset with the decision; Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the U.S. Chinese Embassy, tweeted, “Politicians calling for boycott #2022BeijingOlympics are doing so for their own political interests and posturing. In fact, no one would care about whether these people come or not, and it has no impact whatsoever on the #Beijing2022 to be successfully held.”

China has even gone as far as promising retaliation to the move with its Foreign Ministry saying it vows to take “resolute countermeasures”. Whether these means are political, militaristic, or social repercussions is currently unknown.

Team USA will still travel to Beijing and compete on February 4th, but you should not expect to see any U.S. diplomats attending this year. This leaves Chinese and U.S. relations hanging in the balance but hopefully tensions calm through dialogue between both nations.