The Beijing Winter Olympic Games are now a matter of weeks away, being scheduled to take place in February 2022.
There is growing excitement around the world about the games. They take place at a time when China’s economy is firmly on the rise and the country’s political influence is on the increase around the world. On the side-lines of the games, therefore, bilateral and multilateral diplomatic engagements will certainly take place, resulting in the expected signing of new deals and cementing existing ones.
This is why the recent bad example set by the US for a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games appears to have gained no traction at all. By all accounts, the call to boycott the games in protests against allegations of human rights abuses has on the strength of available evidence fallen on deaf ears.
In fact, one of the US’s key allies in Europe, France, summed up the global attitude toward calls to boycott the games aptly. French President Emmanuel Macron described Washington’s decision to boycott the games as “insignificant”. This is a damning pronouncement by a country that is assuming the Presidency of the EU at the beginning of 2022 and is known as a major ally of the US.
Perhaps the nasty fallout from AUKUS, when the US and UK unceremoniously threw out France from a multi-billion dollar deal to build nuclear-powered submarines for Australia to counter China’s dominance in the Indo-Pacific region, still lingers.
The EU, meanwhile, is still thrashing out a common stance on the bloc’s response to the call for a diplomatic boycott of the games, which strictly speaking merely means that scheduled national athletic teams will still participate in the much-anticipated games but the US will not dispatch any significant government delegation to the games.
The EU does not seem likely to unanimously embrace the boycott call. Already, the French government has announced the imminent meeting of the eighth China-France High-Level Economic and Financial Dialogue. So, whereas Europe’s outlook may remain firmly focussed to the west across the Atlantic, the drastically growing interest to look to the east is unwavering.
A recent telephonic discussion between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Macron left little or no doubt that France is not willing to blindly mimic the US’s controversial foreign policy positions at the expense of its primary economic goals. At the end of their telephone call Macron said he hoped the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) would come into effect within the first part of 2022 during the early days of France’s six-monthly rotational presidency of the EU.
Washington’s containment policy towards Beijing, through which the Biden administration is actively attempting to cast its net wide to cobble together like-minded or gullible nations into a global anti-China bloc amid rising fears of a new Cold War, is likely to fail as Beijing constantly preaches multilateralism as opposed to Washington’s unilateralism.
Besides, more and more nations are keen to build economic ties with Beijing for obvious benefits of doing so. But then again, to attempt to bring geopolitics into sport in the manner that the US is advocating for the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games is simply a dangerous game to play at a time when any foolish push for military confrontation in a post-World War 2 international order is likely to obliterate nations into extinction through nuclear weapons.
In any war, there are no victors. Hence, Nelson Mandela’s iconic philosophy is to always try to give peace a chance. President Xi’s call not to hamper the smooth holding of the games through unnecessary politicisation of the Olympics has a sound base in logic.
During a recent video meeting between President Xi and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, an appeal to keep politics out of sport was strongly reiterated.
As President Putin put it: “I have no doubt that the Winter Olympic Games will be held at the highest level. China knows how to do it (This includes) the rejection of any attempts to politicize sports and the Olympic movement.”
The two leaders also publicly announced that they would be meeting face-to-face in Beijing where they will both attend the opening ceremony before continuing with their bilateral engagements on the side-lines of the Winter Olympic Games. A similar sentiment to frown upon any call to boycott the games was echoed by the Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg, who said: “Politicising sporting events like the Winter Olympics does not seem useful to me.”
It is an open secret that since the days of the Donald Trump administration relations between Washington and Beijing have been quite frosty. The trend continued in the aftermath of the election of President Biden to take over from President Trump. The sporadic imposition of unilateral selective economic sanctions by the US against China has resulted in a tense tit-for-tat.
The geopolitical differences based on ideologically opposing standpoints have spilled over into a low-scale arms race. The US continues to leverage on its traditional stranglehold over the EU and NATO and use the two institutions as tools to confront China and Russia as well as attacking other weaker sovereign states such as Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, etc, in flagrant disregard of international law.
Such politics are dangerous. In a truly globalizing world where nations are increasingly inter-connected and inter-dependent, the remnants of the Cold War need not unwisely be used by war-mongers to stoke and ferment new military conflicts in which hundreds of millions of unsuspecting men, women and children will have their lives sacrificed by uncouth political leaderships around the world.
The 21st century has resulted in America’s unipolar position in the international world order disrupted by the rapid rise of China and the re-emergence of Russia out of the ashes of the former Soviet Union. For the sake of women and men, and other athletics who have been training very hard to compete in Beijing next February, may politicians stand out of their way and leave them in peace to enjoy the Winter Olympic Games unhindered by geopolitical shenanigans.