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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.
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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