Boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in China

 

Almost anytime I see the word “boycott,” I either cringe or turn away. In my experience, boycotts are ineffective, political statements that have little power to make a difference. They can have mixed agendas, such as the Boycott-Divest-Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel; or they can make an immediate statement, such as the boycott called against Goya Foods, which actually increased the company’s sales and visibility.

But the most recent boycott discussion against the 2022 Winter Olympics in China has gotten my attention. On many levels, the U.S. taking a stand against the CCP, in particular, could make an impactful statement against a regime that has made no secret about its goal to become the most powerful country in the world. I’m going to make the case for pursuing a boycott against China, because the country needs to be held to account on multiple levels.

To date, at least 180 groups have joined in a boycott coalition against China. There are a number of reasons for boycotting, particularly in the area of human rights:

Enter the Uyghurs. The U.S. State Department last month determined that the Chinese government’s treatment of the Uyghur people constituted genocide and crimes against humanity. Reports show that up to two million Uyghurs have been arbitrarily detained in internment camps where they are subjected to torture and political indoctrination. Alongside the camps, Uyghurs are subjected to enforced disappearances, forced labour, and coercive birth control campaigns. Authorities have destroyed cultural sites, prohibited most religious expression, and attempted to eliminate the use of the Uyghur language. This is to say nothing of the arrest of Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders, forced labour and Orwellian surveillance in Tibet, and the elimination of language schools for ethnic Mongolians.

China has repeatedly promised to improve its human rights record, but if anything, the conditions have worsened.

The lack of transparency on the Wuhan virus has also damaged China’s reputation in the world. Their initial lies and deceptions resulted in the deaths of millions of people, and they continue to try to hide relevant information about the outbreak.

A boycott would also tarnish the CCP public relations effort. In response to Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, we participated in a 62-country boycott of the 1980 Russian Summer Olympics, damaging the media focus and positive message the Russians were hoping for; a boycott on China could have a similar impact.

The Chinese are furious about the potential for a boycott and have already issued threats:

‘If any country is encouraged by extremist forces to take concrete actions to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics, China will definitely retaliate fiercely. China certainly has the resources and means to do that,’ the editorial warned.

The editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Hu Xijin, independently issued his own, milder threat against any state considering a boycott.

‘China will seriously sanction any country that follows such a call,’ Hu claimed.

It’s unclear just how China would retaliate. When former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a “formal declaration that China’s concentration camps and systematic sterilizing of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang constituted a genocide,” he was sanctioned; as a result, he can’t travel to China or do business with the Chinese Communist Party. I doubt that restriction is a concern to him.

It’s helpful to remember that culturally China is extremely sensitive to maintaining a positive image in the world’s eyes, so the idea of a boycott would be especially threatening. It would send a significant message to the Chinese that they are not in control of international opinion and goodwill, and that we can, and will, hold them accountable:

President Biden, last week, spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since taking office, and outlined his ‘core concerns’ with China’s ‘aggressive activities and abuses,’ according to senior administration officials.

And a number of Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Tony Blinken and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, have signaled that China poses one of the greatest national security threats to the United States. Officials in the Trump administration also warned of China’s national security threat to the U.S. – with many agreeing it is a ‘bipartisan’ issue.

Given the Biden family’s relationship with China, it’s going to take a great deal of pressure to persuade Biden to take action against the Chinese.

Republican Rep. Mike Waltz, along with Senator Rick Scott, is also supporting a boycott. He has also proposed moving the venue of the Games, but at this late date, that is unlikely to happen.

At this point, the IOC has been unwilling to take action, calling a boycott a way of injecting politics into what is supposed to be a non-political event.

* * * * *

We must face the reality and prospect of China and the CCP becoming an even greater world power. Anything we can do to damage their credibility throughout the world will make it harder for them to garner the support of other countries. Although it’s unclear how many other countries would join us in a boycott, it’s about time we stood up against a country that continues to torture its people, steals from its trading partners, refuses to acknowledge its distortions and misrepresentations of the Wuhan virus, as well as its unfair treatment of Hong Kong. I believe we have much more to gain than to lose from taking on China.

Especially if we want to remain a free and powerful America.

Published in Foreign Policy
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  1. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    Susan Quinn: Almost anytime I see the word “boycott,” I either cringe or turn away. In my experience, boycotts are ineffective, political statements that have little power to make a long-term difference.

    In many cases it’s not about making a long-term difference but rather simply about protecting one’s own soul.  

    e.g. The American boycott of Cuba didn’t make much of an economic difference considering that every other country on the planet was still free to trade with the Castro regime (raising the question of why the streets of Havana weren’t crawling with Japanese and European cars), but at least it kept the United States from being complicit in the enslavement of the Cuban people.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: Almost anytime I see the word “boycott,” I either cringe or turn away. In my experience, boycotts are ineffective, political statements that have little power to make a long-term difference.

    In many cases it’s not about making a long-term difference but rather simply about protecting one’s own soul.

    e.g. The American boycott of Cuba didn’t make much of an economic difference considering that every other country on the planet was still free to trade with the Castro regime (raising the question of why the streets of Havana weren’t crawling with Japanese and European cars), but at least it kept the United States from being complicit in the enslavement of the Cuban people.

    Well said, Mis. I added “long-term” at the last minute. It’s not the issue, is it? I’ll fix it forthwith!

    • #2
  3. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    Another thought: I cannot participate in most boycotts because they’re almost always products or services that I don’t use anyways.

    However, I finally have a boycott available to me that is a real hardship for me: The boycott of Disney+.

    I really, really, really want to watch The Mandalorian and Wandavision, but I can’t because I’ve resolved to never knowingly give Disney another penny of my money.

    Clearly, Disney doesn’t need my money. In truth, they’ve gotten precious little of it since I’ve been an adult.

    But it’s not about hurting Disney. It’s about refraining from being complicit in Disney’s behaviour.

    • #3
  4. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    I don’t think an Olympic boycott is sufficient. The problem with a boycott is that Olympians have a rather limited window in which to display their skills.  Taking out one Olympic game in effect takes out 8 years of an athlete’s window. Instead, have an alternative Olympics and allow the athletes to compete on a world stage.

    • #4
  5. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: Almost anytime I see the word “boycott,” I either cringe or turn away. In my experience, boycotts are ineffective, political statements that have little power to make a long-term difference.

    In many cases it’s not about making a long-term difference but rather simply about protecting one’s own soul.

    e.g. The American boycott of Cuba didn’t make much of an economic difference considering that every other country on the planet was still free to trade with the Castro regime (raising the question of why the streets of Havana weren’t crawling with Japanese and European cars), but at least it kept the United States from being complicit in the enslavement of the Cuban people.

    Well said, Mis. I added “long-term” at the last minute. It’s not the issue, is it? I’ll fix it forthwith!

    I don’t think it matters if it’s long-term or short-term.  I think that changing the target’s behaviour is rarely the primary purpose of a boycott.

    • #5
  6. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    Hang On (View Comment):

    I don’t think an Olympic boycott is sufficient. The problem with a boycott is that Olympians have a rather limited window in which to display their skills. Taking out one Olympic game in effect takes out 8 years of an athlete’s window. Instead, have an alternative Olympics and allow the athletes to compete on a world stage.

    The athletes can still compete in their respective sports’ world championships, which really should be the actual pinnacle event for any sport.

    I despise the Olympics, and wish my country would boycott them regardless of where they are held. The Olympics are nothing more than an exercise in public relations and always have been. They should have been cancelled permanently after 1936. At the very least they should enjoy no more prestige than the XGames or one of Red Bull’s events.

    • #6
  7. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker
    @JennaStocker

    You make an important point. I absolutely agree with you that China is overdue for some very, very harsh consequences for its atrocious human rights violations, worldwide deceit, and abuse of its international powers. But I’m going to step back from punishing innocent athletes for the political wars we are fighting. These very talented (mostly) kids and young adults work their whole lives for this one chance to compete at the highest level of their craft. In many cases they and their families make tremendous sacrifices to get there. I think a feasible option would be to move it to a previous venue and cut out the pomp that usually makes these more ‘show’ than sport. Thank you for starting this conversation. Great post.

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Hang On (View Comment):

    I don’t think an Olympic boycott is sufficient. The problem with a boycott is that Olympians have a rather limited window in which to display their skills. Taking out one Olympic game in effect takes out 8 years of an athlete’s window. Instead, have an alternative Olympics and allow the athletes to compete on a world stage.

    I appreciate the dilemma for the athlete, but having an alternative Olympics raises problems, too. Are we going to prevent countries like China from being hosts? Will a new organization fall into the same political correctness? I’m not against the idea, @hangon; at the same time that “limited window” could last two years.

    • #8
  9. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and
    @Misthiocracy

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    I don’t think an Olympic boycott is sufficient. The problem with a boycott is that Olympians have a rather limited window in which to display their skills. Taking out one Olympic game in effect takes out 8 years of an athlete’s window. Instead, have an alternative Olympics and allow the athletes to compete on a world stage.

    I appreciate the dilemma for the athlete, but having an alternative Olympics raises problems, too. Are we going to prevent countries like China from being hosts? Will a new organization fall into the same political correctness? I’m not against the idea, @ hangon; at the same time that “limited window” could last two years.

    What do you mean “we”? The International Olympic Committee is a private organization, incorporated in Switzerland. It can stage its little bacchanalia wherever it likes.

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    JennaStocker (View Comment):
    I think a feasible option would be to move it to a previous venue and cut out the pomp that usually makes these more ‘show’ than sport.

    Now this makes sense to me, Jenna. A great idea: all the facilities are in place, and we could make it for the athletes, not for the politicians! Thanks!

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):
    What do you mean “we”? The International Olympic Committee is a private organization, incorporated in Switzerland. It can stage its little bacchanalia wherever it likes.

    Got it. Fair point. The IOC is never going to come around. They’re incapable of thinking that a protest against genocide is anything other than political.

    • #11
  12. Gwen Novak Member
    Gwen Novak
    @GwenNovak

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    I don’t think an Olympic boycott is sufficient. The problem with a boycott is that Olympians have a rather limited window in which to display their skills. Taking out one Olympic game in effect takes out 8 years of an athlete’s window. Instead, have an alternative Olympics and allow the athletes to compete on a world stage.

    The athletes can still compete in their respective sports’ world championships, which really should be the actual pinnacle event for any sport.

    I despise the Olympics, and wish my country would boycott them regardless of where they are held. The Olympics are nothing more than an exercise in public relations and always have been. They should have been cancelled permanently after 1936. At the very least they should enjoy no more prestige than the XGames or one of Red Bull’s events.

    I have a few weeks left before my subscription is up if you want to borrow my login.

    • #12
  13. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    JennaStocker (View Comment):
    I think a feasible option would be to move it to a previous venue and cut out the pomp that usually makes these more ‘show’ than sport. Thank you for starting this conversation. Great post.

    I’m agreeable to assigning a permanent location for them. The idea might be older, but I remember reading about it in the nineties when people wanted to give Athens the 1996 Olympics so that they could celebrate 100 years of the modern Olympics. There was a writer or two suggesting making Greece the permanent host.

    I think the 1984 Summer Olympics did well financially because they used a lot of infrastructure from the previous time. I’ve heard that Mitt Romney turned a profit with Salt Lake City’s Winter Olympics. Otherwise a lot of facilities are built that only get used once and then rot. A fixed site would be nice but end the gravy train of bribes for the selection committee.

    Of course, China was supposed to be free by now. Nazi Germany hosted the Olympics in 1936 and was defeated in 1945. The Soviet Union hosted in 1980 and was cracking by 1989 and gone a year or two later. Yugoslavia hosted in 1984 and collapsed in 1992. China hosting in 2008 should have caused it to open up by now.

    • #13
  14. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker
    @JennaStocker

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    JennaStocker (View Comment):
    I think a feasible option would be to move it to a previous venue and cut out the pomp that usually makes these more ‘show’ than sport. Thank you for starting this conversation. Great post.

    I’m agreeable to assigning a permanent location for them. The idea might be older, but I remember reading about it in the nineties when people wanted to give Athens the 1996 Olympics so that they could celebrate 100 years of the modern Olympics. There was a writer or two suggesting making Greece the permanent host.

    I think the 1984 Summer Olympics did well financially because they used a lot of infrastructure from the previous time. I’ve heard that Mitt Romney turned a profit with Salt Lake City’s Winter Olympics. Otherwise a lot of facilities are built that only get used once and then rot. A fixed site would be nice but end the gravy train of brides for the selection committee.

    Of course, China was supposed to be free by now. Nazi Germany hosted the Olympics in 1936 and was defeated in 1945. The Soviet Union hosted in 1980 and was cracking by 1989 and gone a year or two later. Yugoslavia hosted in 1984 and collapsed in 1992. China hosting in 2008 should have caused it to open up by now.

    Great point. It would be hard to break up the merry-go-round of back scratching (and corruption – political or otherwise) that’s become synonymous with international organizations. Despite the enormous costs, countries vie for the venue to draw attention, tourism, and even other annual or biannual world championship events in respective sports. A permanent address would end that gravy train. As for an open China, it seems the trend you mentioned above came about with some very serious military involvement…

    • #14
  15. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    JennaStocker (View Comment):

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    JennaStocker (View Comment):
    I think a feasible option would be to move it to a previous venue and cut out the pomp that usually makes these more ‘show’ than sport. Thank you for starting this conversation. Great post.

    I’m agreeable to assigning a permanent location for them. The idea might be older, but I remember reading about it in the nineties when people wanted to give Athens the 1996 Olympics so that they could celebrate 100 years of the modern Olympics. There was a writer or two suggesting making Greece the permanent host.

    I think the 1984 Summer Olympics did well financially because they used a lot of infrastructure from the previous time. I’ve heard that Mitt Romney turned a profit with Salt Lake City’s Winter Olympics. Otherwise a lot of facilities are built that only get used once and then rot. A fixed site would be nice but end the gravy train of brides bribes for the selection committee.

    Of course, China was supposed to be free by now. Nazi Germany hosted the Olympics in 1936 and was defeated in 1945. The Soviet Union hosted in 1980 and was cracking by 1989 and gone a year or two later. Yugoslavia hosted in 1984 and collapsed in 1992. China hosting in 2008 should have caused it to open up by now.

    Great point. It would be hard to break up the merry-go-round of back scratching (and corruption – political or otherwise) that’s become synonymous with international organizations. Despite the enormous costs, countries vie for the venue to draw attention, tourism, and even other annual or biannual world championship events in respective sports. A permanent address would end that gravy train. As for an open China, it seems the trend you mentioned above came about with some very serious military involvement…

    I caught a typo reading your comment. You’re right. It wasn’t the peaceful spirit of Olympic competition that ended those regimes.

    • #15
  16. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn: But the most recent boycott discussion against the 2022 Winter Olympics in China has gotten my attention. On many levels, the U.S. taking a stand against the CCP in particular could make an impactful statement against a regime that has made no secret about its goal to become the most powerful country in the world. I’m going to make the case for pursuing a boycott against China, because the country needs to be held to account on multiple levels.

    I agree.  China can’t be shamed, but they can be shunned.  What is happening to the Uighurs is a modern day holocaust (using the term generically) and can happen to us and the rest of the free world if we don’t stop China now.  “Never Forget” is said about the Holocaust, but it seems many people have forgotten . . .

    • #16
  17. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Susan Quinn: President Biden, last week, spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since taking office, and outlined his ‘core concerns’ with China’s ‘aggressive activities and abuses,’ according to senior administration officials.

    Then Xi laughed and said “Shut up and listen, Joe.”

    • #17
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    Another thought: I cannot participate in most boycotts because they’re almost always products or services that I don’t use anyways.

    However, I finally have a boycott available to me that is a real hardship for me: The boycott of Disney+.

    I really, really, really want to watch The Mandalorian and Wandavision, but I can’t because I’ve resolved to never knowingly give Disney another penny of my money.

    Clearly, Disney doesn’t need my money. In truth, they’ve gotten precious little of it since I’ve been an adult.

    But it’s not about hurting Disney. It’s about refraining hfrom being complicit in Disney’s behaviour.

    I was thinking about subscribing to Disney+ in order to binge-watch “The Mandalorian” before season 3, but their reason for and method of dismissing Gina Carano has dampened my ardor.

    • #18
  19. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    We boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow and nine years later the USSR pulled out of Afghanistan. So maybe it isn’t the best way to go about it. With all the economic ties we have with China, I would think there are more effective ways to make a stand rather than punishing people who compete in curling or biathlon or some other sport that no one pays attention to outside of the Olympics.

    Hint: If you are using your iphone to call for a boycott of China, you’re part of the problem.

    • #19
  20. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    I suspect we will boycott unless prominent Democrats can make money of it.

    • #20
  21. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    The Democrats MAY call for a girlcott, but a boycott would be problematic.

    • #21
  22. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Dotorimuk (View Comment):

    The Democrats MAY call for a girlcott, but a boycott would be problematic.

    Are you assuming the gender of an economic action?

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Dotorimuk (View Comment):

    The Democrats MAY call for a girlcott, but a boycott would be problematic.

    Good point!

    • #23
  24. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I don’t think that an Olympic boycott is an effective way to sanction China.

    It punishes our athletes.  It doesn’t punish the Chinese very much.  Setting up an alternative Olympics doesn’t really work, as it wouldn’t be the same for the athletes.

    The idea of the Olympics is to celebrate the pursuit of excellence, apart from politics.  So, leave the politics out of it, and let the games go on.

    I’m up for sanctioning China in various other ways.  Tariffs, anyone?

    • #24
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    It doesn’t punish the Chinese very much.

    I disagree. You totally underrate the loss of face that the Chinese would experience with a boycott. They may be Communists, but saving face is still hugely important. 

    • #25
  26. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    I agree with the sentiments completely and if President Trump was in the oval office this might have happened. But with China Joe and the Chinese Coalition (Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Confuscious universities, and media) in charge, it isn’t going to happen.

    • #26
  27. American Abroad Thatcher
    American Abroad
    @AmericanAbroad

    I would rather not boycott the China Olympics.  I fear that this would make the US look petulant and not embarrass China as much as it would the US in the eyes of the world.  China has been a malevolent actor for years, but they seem to win admiration and praise for their tyranny.  They have been lauded for their covid response by much of the world, and their totalitarian control over the lives of their subjects seems to be the envy of technocrats everywhere.  I fear a US boycott would only be seen as China-envy from a declining superpower by the rest of the world.  If other countries get on board, then I might support a boycott.

    But I am perfectly open to having the US find at least one Uyghur-American athlete to carry our flag at the opening ceremonies.  

    • #27
  28. American Abroad Thatcher
    American Abroad
    @AmericanAbroad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    It doesn’t punish the Chinese very much.

    I disagree. You totally underrate the loss of face that the Chinese would experience with a boycott. They may be Communists, but saving face is still hugely important.

    I think this is more true of the 1980 boycott than today.  In 1980, America was and was seen as the leader of the free world, and the Soviet Union was seen around the world for the ugly monstrosity that it actually was.  I don’t think American prestige is as high today as it was in 1980, and I think China is often seen as a success story as opposed to the totalitarian dystopia it actually is.

    • #28
  29. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge
    Fake John/Jane Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    If China was smart they would figure a way to get one of Biden’s relatives on some of the Olympic committees.  Once his family can get their beak in things would go smoothly for them.  

    • #29
  30. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Dotorimuk (View Comment):

    The Democrats MAY call for a girlcott, but a boycott would be problematic.

    With transgenderism, what’s the difference?

    • #30