By: Ian Dollar
In February 2022, skiers, curlers, skaters, and other athletes from all over the world will descend upon Beijing, capital of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), for the next edition of the Winter Olympics. The highest level of competition will be on full display upon the ice and snow. The City of Beijing, for its part, promises to present a grand spectacle of itself to the world, much as it did for the greatly-lauded 2008 Summer Games. But, as certain matters of geopolitics and internal Chinese affairs have become more contentious, there is a justifiable undercurrent of discord about the selection of the PRC as the Winter Olympics’ next venue.
Voices from Brussels to Washington have thus far only called for diplomatic boycotts; that is, to avoid sending state dignitaries to attend the games. The European Parliament passed a resolution to this effect in July and there were votes in the US Congress to move in that direction around the same time. The US State Department confirmed that it was not planning a boycott campaign and would certainly not attempt to coordinate such a scheme with America’s allies. This feebleness is embarrassing and it will represent a missed opportunity if Western powers fail to do more than apply a diplomatic slap on the wrist to the PRC.
That the US does not seem ready to take a more robust stand against the PRC is particularly shameful given how it has responded to the actions of less powerful states. Take Belarus, for example. After Belarusian officials bloodlessly forced down a Ryanair passenger jet to imprison one journalist, the US impose sanctions via visa restrictions and economic penalties for Belarusian state industries. If the US Government feels the need to sanction a strategically insignificant post-Soviet regime in this manner, surely it can muster more than diplomatic disdain for a genocidal and geopolitically adversarial PRC. The US must put its money where its mouth is in opposition to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), whose most recent sins I shall now recount.
Most hideously, there is the PRC’s treatment of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang. Genocide is a strong term, but on January 19, 2020, the penultimate day of the Trump Administration, outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo correctly and officially recognized that genocide is indeed what is happening to the predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in the PRC’s Western-most province. Commendably, the Biden Administration has reaffirmed Secretary Pompeo’s finding. Crimes perpetrated by the PRC against the Uyghurs include forced sterilizations, forced abortions, mass rape, extended detention in internment & re-education camps, discrimination in labor opportunities, and forced renunciations of religious beliefs. The CCP has disputed most of these accusations, though government sources have publicly acknowledged and defended the holding of between 1-3 million Uyghurs in detention facilities as a matter of national security.
In addition to this mass horror, the Chinese government deserves significant blame for the global severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. When it became apparent in late 2019 that a novel virus was spreading, they delayed sharing vital information with the rest of the world. For example, the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 was withheld until one scientist, Zhang Yongzhen, leaked it to the University of Sydney’s Edward C. Holmes on January 11, 2020. As no good deed goes unpunished, Zhang’s lab was temporarily shut down for, “rectification,” – the official excuse being that certain safety protocols needed an update. Sure. Principally for economic reasons, Beijing hoped to contain and deny rather than admit the danger of the situation and suspend international travel. (For those of you interested in further information: the PBS Frontline documentary, “China’s COVID Secrets,” released February 2, 2021, is perhaps the most conclusive recounting of the PRC’s coverup.)
As all of this ugliness has played out in graphic detail on the international stage, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in its wisdom, has stubbornly stayed the course. There were other worthy contenders to host the 2022 Winter Games, such as finalist Almaty, Kazakhstan, which actually receives significant natural snowfall in February, unlike Beijing. Say what you will about Kazakhstan (many busybodies in the press certainly have), but there is no corruption or misbehavior within its government that comes even close, ethically, to being as severe as the transgressions of the Chinese regime. In light of this moral malaise, where the IOC won’t change, can America afford to miss the chance to stand for what is right?
The US should economically boycott the Olympics not only to make the point that it can not abide the behavior of the CCP, but also because of the secondary effects a boycott would have. US companies doing business in China or promoting these Olympic Games would likely face Chinese government sanctions, such as the seizure of PRC-based assets or denial of access to the Chinese market – these sorts of actions would be the best the PRC could do to, ‘punish,’ the US for a bolder diplomatic stance. Such moves would accelerate the decoupling of the US and Chinese economies, much to the disadvantage of Beijing. The PRC is utterly dependent on international trade, yet an economic boycott and the inevitable Chinese backlash would encourage the isolation of the Chinese economy.
There would also be a domestic social backlash against PRC-friendly US companies, such as Apple and Nike, which would, at minimum, incentivize them to move operations to friendlier states like Vietnam, and possibly even lead to the reshoring of some jobs in the US. America’s business culture has been geared for decades now to pursue profit at all costs. No matter what happened to Middle America, no matter what happened to the broader social fabric, no matter which opponents of the US benefited from corporate practices – the almighty profit came first. It is time for this culture to change. Corporate America needs a wakeup call and being forcefully sandwiched between the dueling interests and wraths of the US and PRC would be just that.