Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

The ‘diplomatic’ Olympic boycott


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : US-China Rivalry

The US Government has decided not send any official representation to the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing announcing what is being called a “diplomatic boycott” of the games.

What is a ‘diplomatic boycott’?

  • A “diplomatic boycott” means no US official will be present at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
  • This stops short of a complete boycott, which would have meant the non-participation by US athletes.
  • As such, the absence of official representation will not impact the games as much as an athletic boycott would have.

What led to the US boycott?

Ans. Uyghurs Genocide

  • The decision was taken because of China’s gross human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang.
  • This is the latest clash adding to a long list of differences on trade, Taiwan, human rights and the South China Sea.
  • Xinjiang Uyghurs have been sent by Chinese authorities to “re-education” camps, a network of which were constructed beginning in 2016 to house thousands of detainees.
  • Beijing initially denied the existence of the camps, but subsequently claimed the centres were for “vocational training”.

Who else is ‘diplomatically boycotting’ the games?

  • So far, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have also announced that their officials will not be present at the games.
  • None, however, has said their athletes will not attend, which means the games themselves are unlikely to be impacted.
  • It remains to be seen if the boycott will gain traction beyond US allies and partners.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to Beijing for the opening of the Winter Olympics.
  • China has been garnering support from countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

How is China reacting to the boycott?

  • Beyond the statements decrying the “politicization” of sports, there is certainly a domestic political undercurrent to the games.
  • China’s media, meanwhile, has been largely playing down the reports of the boycotts, underlining how the authorities are going all-out to ensure the games are conducted without a hurdle.

What will be the impact on US-China relations?

  • Much recently, the US and Chinese Presidents committed to “responsibly” managing their growing competition amid increasing conflicts.
  • Both nations called common-sense guardrails to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict.
  • China emphasized the “need to treat each other as equals” and warned against “drawing ideological lines”, calling on the US “to meet its word of not seeking a ‘new Cold War’”.


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