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Beijing Winter Olympics: Biden Tries To Out-Trump Trump – OpEd

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Sports should not be allowed to become an instrument of discord, pressure and political intrigue

The latest US declaration that it will engage in a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics due to be held in China is no surprise either to China or the rest of the world. But what can we make of this decision which is contrary to the spirit of the games and the Olympic charter.

It is significant that the US press statement makes no mention of the principle of olympism which all member countries of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) are to abide by but which the United States has routinely violated.  

As stated in the IOC’s web front page:  

The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

The same IOC front page also notes that:

The resolution entitled “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal” was adopted today by consensus and co-sponsored by 173 Member States at the 76th Session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly (GA) in New York. 

Noteworthy is the fact that the US was not a co-sponsor of the resolution initiated by China although it did not oppose it. 

“So proud to introduce the Olympic Truce resolution for Beijing 2022. Thanks all for the consensual adoption by the UNGA, with the overwhelming co-sponsorship of 173 members. China attaches great importance to the Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Beijing is ready to welcome all from the world,” Chinese Permanent Representative to the UN Zhang Jun twittered. 

The IOC’s Position on Politicising Sports

In a speech introducing the resolution which was principally aimed at discouraging the United States or any other country from politicising the games and sports around the world, IOC President.Thomas Bach stressed the importance of peace and solidarity in our divided world: 

“By adopting this resolution, you are supporting the mission of the Olympic Games to unite the best winter sport athletes of the entire world, without any discrimination whatsoever, in a peaceful and respectful competition. This bond of our shared humanity is even more relevant in our polarised world today.”

“We can only accomplish this mission if the Olympic Games stand above and beyond all political, cultural and other differences. This is only possible if the Olympic Games are politically neutral and do not become a tool to achieve political goals,

The IOC President is not the only one who anticipated that the United States, a well known serial offender in crimes against humanity and practitioner of the mass killings of innocent civilian populations in the name of the protection of human rights and freedoms, would use any excuse or pretext to discredit China in the international arena. .  

Speaking out too, the representative of the Russian Federation warned that sport should not become a political tool or an instrument of intrigue, such as blackmail, and it must never be used as an instrument of power involving sanctions. 

In a similar vein, the representative of Belarus described some individual politicians’ attempts to “put on a show” and demagogue against the backdrop of the forthcoming Olympic Games as equally unacceptable. He also noted dangerous precedents of how easily sporting events — designed to unite countries and peoples — can become an instrument of discord, pressure and political intrigue in the hands of dishonest politicians.

Justifying the Beijing Boycott

When justifying the diplomatic boycott, the Biden administration has revived Trump’s charge of China’s alleged record of crimes against humanity and genocidal action in Xinjiang. In fact, the US media has conveniently omitted to mention that until 2018 when Trump was looking for issues to win the presidential elections, the then President, the US State Department in charge of US foreign policy, and the US media generally, were supportive of China’s socio-economic policies aimed at assimilating and integrating the Uygher Muslim community in a region with a legacy of ethnic conflict and terrorism. This support can be seen in the US favourable views of the Chinese authorities’ efforts aimed at securing the peaceful development of the troubled province and even approval of the now reviled re-education camps currently hyped as the center of China’s human rights abuses.   

Many countries are fully aware of what is happening in Xinjiang. Responding to the recent US and western media orchestrated anti China propaganda, countries, including from the Muslim world, have defended China notably in the United Nations where, during the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June this year, more than 90 countries expressed their support of China’s stance in Xinjiang with 65 of them clearly opposed to interference with China’s domestic affairs in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Tibet Autonomous Region.

Today Biden, looking to prop up his popularity with the American public which has plummeted to record low levels, is resorting to the same megaphone tarring of China’s internal policies used by Trump. Denigrated by his Republican opponents for his domestic and foreign policy failures and his anaemic leadership, “Sleepy Joe” aka “Xiden” – the latter name a derogatory reference to his alleged pro-China stance in his earlier political career, the US President’s advisers and Democratic Party leaders are desperate for issues to counter the anti-Biden and anti-Democrat Party political upsurge. 

But in manipulating human rights and foreign policy concerns to win votes, they would do well need to look into their own mirror of US and western human rights transgressions before denouncing China and other nations determined to walk a path of development that is independent, free and different from that of the West and yet conforms to the principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the UN Charter.    

The US and its western allies are pioneers and masters in racist and anti Muslim propaganda and the manufacturing of fabricated enemies such as Saddam Hussein who could be easily taken down. Biden may yet win some support from American voters through the weaponizing of the winter olympics against China. But it will be a short run and meaningless victory if the objective is to take down the Chinese government. 

The reality is that 1.4 billion Chinese stand in the way of the US and western efforts to maintain their dominance of the world. Ominously for the West, according to the latest Edelman Global Trust Barometer of 2020,  80% of China’s citizens trust their government – the highest level in the world. In contrast, the governments of the US, the UK. Australia and Canada received 42%, 45%, 61% and 59% of public trust respectively. 

More noteworthy is a long term Harvard study released in June 2020 which found that 95% of China’s population approved of the Chinese central government. The landmark Harvard  report – the longest academic study of Chinese public opinion ever conducted by a research institution based outside China which involved in-person interviews with more than 31,000 individuals in urban and rural areas and used “the most objective and quantitative methods” – sheds light not only on the close rapport between the Communist Party of China and the Chinese population. It also clearly shows that attempts by the West to dictate the path of development for China will be resisted by the Chinese masses. 

The hypocritical efforts to capitalize on the Peng Shuai story and Beijing’s Winter Olympics event to further isolate China makes good press in Washington, London, Canberra and Ottawa for a few days. But it will further swing the barometer of political legitimacy and trust towards the CPC’s leadership of the country.    

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Lim Teck Ghee

Lim Teck Ghee PhD is a Malaysian economic historian, policy analyst and public intellectual whose career has straddled academia, civil society organisations and international development agencies. He has a regular column, Another Take, in The Sun, a Malaysian daily; and is author of Challenging the Status Quo in Malaysia.

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