America Must Prevent Deepening Rifts in Its Response to Beijing Olympics

President Joe Biden’s administration has announced that it will not be sending any government officials to next February’s Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The move is being referred to as a “diplomatic boycott.”

The U.S. cited human rights issues in areas such as China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region as the reason for its decision. Athletes are still on course to travel to Beijing, as the boycott extends only to government officials. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia,* are said to be considering similar measures.

After the announcement, China accused the U.S. of trying to sabotage the Olympics by spreading false rumors, and has indicated that it intends to retaliate. However, this state of affairs arose only because of China’s unwillingness to address the concerns of the international community. China must demonstrate that it has the capacity to listen to criticism.

It will be the athletes who will be affected should the conflict escalate. All countries concerned should take care not to further exacerbate the situation. With less than two months to go before the opening ceremony, Japan is also under pressure to make its position known. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida indicated that the Japanese government would take a comprehensive view and make its own decision based on national interests.

Japan took its own position at the Sochi Winter Olympics held in Russia in 2014. Many world leaders, such as those from the U.S. and European countries, did not attend the opening ceremony due to Vladimir Putin’s discriminatory stance toward members of the LGBT community. However, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended.

The Olympics are, and have been, a celebration of peace. Despite this, there have been many difficult occasions when politics have been dragged into the event and its essential meaning has been lost.

The United States announced that it would not send athletes to the 1980 Moscow Olympics due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, after which other countries, including Japan and West Germany, followed suit. In response, many former Eastern Bloc countries decided not to take part in the following Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted an “Olympic Truce” resolution for both the summer and winter games. These motions continue an ancient tradition of suspending all conflict during the Olympics.

A resolution was adopted for the Beijing Olympics after a joint proposal made by 173 countries, including China. However, four countries that have been putting more emphasis on cooperation with China — Japan, the United States, Australia and India — notably did not sign the proposal.

During the Cold War, the Olympics were affected by the conflict between the East and the West, leaving athletes at the mercy of international politics. Now more than ever, in this time of deteriorating relations between the U.S. and China that is referred to as the “New Cold War,” we must emphasize the Olympic spirit of peace and cooperation.

*Editor’s Note: As of Dec. 8, Australia, the U.K. and Canada have all joined the U.S. in the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

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About D Baker 48 Articles
Japanese to English translator and account manager of @grammargopher, which provides bitesize grammar lessons for English and Japanese language learners.

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