Tune out the Winter Olympics, don’t reward Communist China’s scheme

Published 2:02 pm Friday, February 4, 2022

At their best, the Olympics are a celebration of the human spirit. We saw this last year when Japan, a country where I served as U.S. Ambassador from 2017 to 2019, demonstrated the strength of its recovery from the devastating 2011 Fukushima disaster by hosting over 15,000 international athletes for the Summer Games despite a yearlong delay caused by the COVID pandemic
In a jarring contrast, the 2022 Winter Olympics will soon be hosted by China, a country whose Marxist-Leninist dictatorship is perpetrating ongoing genocide against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities, in addition to committing other major human rights violations in Tibet and Hong Kong. The Communist regime there is actively staging international provocations, and aggressively exporting its authoritarian model through its Belt and Road Initiative.
The Chinese Communist Party, with the complicity of the International Olympic Committee and the corporate media, is already using the Winter Games as an international propaganda exercise to bolster its legitimacy while silencing criticism.
Witness Yang Shu, the Beijing Organizing Committee’s deputy director general of international relations, who recently threatened foreign athletes with “certain punishment” for “[a]ny behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against the Chinese laws and regulations.”
It is unconscionable that an international competition intended to promote peaceful relations and celebrate human dignity was awarded to a totalitarian human rights abuser that will use the event to launder its image on the world stage. That’s why Americans should turn off their televisions rather than reward the CCP’s manipulative scheme and inhumane behavior.
Sadly, China’s threats against athletes are having their intended effect. Noah Hoffman, a former two-time U.S. Olympian cross-country skier, said athletes are “nervous” and “not speaking to the media about anything related to human rights,” adding: “They’re working through logistics of getting burner phones and rental computers. The only meetings they’ve had with their teams have been either about COVID or security. They haven’t had any team meetings about sport, which is kind of mind-boggling.”
For the CCP, there’s more at stake than just silencing critics. Holding successful Winter Games is another step in the Party’s decades-long march to achieving “the Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation” — and displacing American primacy — by 2049, the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.
As exerting total internal control and crushing all dissent are core components of the CCP’s vision for national rejuvenation, China — which shocked the world’s conscience with the Tiananmen Massacre of its own citizens in 1989 and its draconian cover-up of the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 — continues to go to chilling extremes to subjugate and eliminate what it perceives as threats from within.
Beijing has blatantly erased Hong Kong’s autonomy and democracy in violation of international agreements, including diplomatic understandings with the U.S. and other nations and a legally binding 1984 treaty with Britain.
Domination of East Asia forms another tenet of the CCP’s plans. China therefore continues to build up what it calls a “world class” military, with massive conventional and nuclear forces to rival American and allied military capabilities, with an aim to push the U.S. out of the Pacific.
Moreover, General Secretary Xi Jinping and the CCP threaten to take over democratic Taiwan, by force if necessary. With uncharacteristic bluntness, China’s Ambassador to the U.S. recently warned of “military conflict” with the U.S. over Taiwan. No doubt they are closely watching American and allied reaction to Vladimir Putin’s threats to unleash Russian forces in an invasion of Ukraine.
The CCP’s use of the Winter Olympics to further its ambitions of global preeminence speaks to a broader strategy in which China hijacks international institutions and enlists them to its own geopolitical objectives. We have witnessed this in the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and other multilateral organizations.
While I support the diplomatic boycott that the U.S. and a small group of nations have undertaken, I believe the Biden Administration should have done more — including organizing a large coalition of nations to take a break – as Japan proved possible — and press the IOC to move the Winter Games.
But the Biden administration prefers the pursuit of “managed competition” with Beijing — in other words, returning to the failed strategy of all carrot, no-stick enticement of Communist China to become a so-called “responsible stakeholder.” The American people should demand more; and boycotting the CCP’s malign and propaganda-filled Olympics would have sent a much clearer message.
We should regard the fact that Beijing is hosting these Olympics as a warning that the U.S. and our partners must do more to meet the China Challenge in the 21st century. There is no moral equivalency between Communist China and democracies that respect human rights. Nations who value such rights must no longer give the CCP a pass on the world stage nor support its hijacking of the IOC as a massive propaganda boon.
(Sen. Bill Hagerty represents Tennessee in the U.S. Senate.)

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