Beijing’s propaganda games are just getting started

Published 1:54 pm Friday, February 11, 2022

Last weekend, the world celebrated our athletes during the Opening Ceremonies in Beijing. Under normal circumstances, viewers and commentators would laud the next few weeks of competition as the pinnacle of athleticism and patriotism; but this year, the Games have turned into an Olympic-sized display of failed leadership.
At the helm of this disaster is the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Despite priding itself on its apolitical goal of building “a peaceful and better world,” the IOC’s altruism tarnished when work began on the 2022 Winter Games. The international community was well aware that after the 2008 Beijing Games, forced relocations, invasive citizen surveillance, and other human rights violations against Chinese citizens escalated. The IOC knew this and still chose Beijing to host the 2022 Games. When challenged by human rights groups raising the alarm about the ongoing Uyghur genocide, the IOC doubled down by meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to share their “strong support” for Beijing’s bid.
The IOC is not alone in their silence. Under President Joe Biden’s failed leadership, the United States has remained painfully quiet on the subject of Beijing’s crimes. When I called for a full boycott of the Games months ago, Democrats declined to support it. Now, China has used this opportunity to exploit the Games as yet another political weapon against western influence.
International organizations and governments have bent over backwards to cover up the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) monstrous agenda, and as a result, media giants and corporate sponsors are lining their pockets with the CCP’s cash. During the last Winter Games, NBC made more than $920 million in national ad sales. With NBC expecting another enormous payday, the network’s anchors have blatantly defended CCP propaganda.
The quid pro quo is even more obvious with corporate sponsors. American brands knew the risks of promoting the Games in the U.S., so they opted to roll out the red carpet in China instead. A Coca-Cola and Beijing Olympics-branded minibus tour and social media campaign were launched weeks before the Opening Ceremonies. Despite publically promoting “woke” policies in the U.S., Procter & Gamble and Visa have used their platforms to rake in blood money.
Policy experts know that Beijing’s Olympic goals are about more than money or medals. Last week, Bhuchung Tsering, Interim President for International Campaign for Tibet, shared with me that the CCP is using the Games to create a “new world order” in opposition to democracy, human rights, freedom, and the rule of law. The failure of the international community to address this growing power struggle has put our athletes at immediate risk.
China has demonstrated their willingness to disappear players like Peng Shuai who speak out against party leaders and have weaponized digital applications and payment technologies to surveil, threaten, and arrest users. I sounded the alarm about China’s digital Yuan push in a letter to Susanne Lyons, chair of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) board of directors, but she dismissed my concerns. The USOPC and the international community’s silence demonstrates a willingness to bury the CCP’s heinous crimes, if the price is right.
Instead of protecting athletes, world leaders would urge competitors to stay silent. Don’t protest. Take the money. Stick to the status quo. But the world cannot continue to let fear of retaliation or lust for cash drive decision-making. While we watch our athletes compete overseas, China is watching our refusal to take a stand, and acting accordingly. China may not win every gold medal in the Olympics, but if we’re not careful, the CCP can and will gain ground in the race to global domination.
(Marsha Blackburn represents Tennessee in the U.S. Senate)

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