How China will politicize the Winter Olympics to show the world power

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The clock in Beijing shows the days and hours remaining for the opening of the Winter Olympics in the Chinese capital, Photo: EFE/EPA/Wu Hong

In February, Beijing will become the first city in history to host both the Winter and Summer Olympics.

It would have been 13-and-a-half years since the Chinese capital hosted the Summer Olympics, when winter competitions began at the opening ceremony on June 4, enough time to change China’s perception and likewise political pretense. Organized the largest multi-sporting events in the world.

If the desire to display soft power (power for issues that go beyond power, so-called hard power, such as culture and sport) remains the same, then Chinese currency now has less to do with the desire to get a seat. Table of elders with a desire to play cards in world geopolitics. nation and more.

In the book “Sport, Power and International Relations” (Fundaço Alexandre de Gusmao, 2008), the result of a thesis presented to the Rio Branco Institute, diplomat Douglas Wanderli de Vasconcelos described how China used sport as a tool in its relations. used in. Other countries have since at least the 1970s, when “ping-pong diplomacy” helped to re-establish political contact with the United States.

In 1979, China joined the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and over the next decade, when it returned to the Games after being absent since 1952, it took a somewhat pragmatic approach with the same aim of approximation. In 1980, he joined the US-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics, and in 1988, he opposed North Korea’s support for the Seoul Summer Games.

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At the same time, the country pursued the sport widely with the aim of becoming an Olympic power (which it achieved: Seoul—11th place in the 1988 medal tally, was one of the three countries with the most gold medals). All Summer Olympics since 2000 and Beijing–2008), and also prepared to host major events.

The year 2001, when Beijing won the right to host the 2008 Summer Games, was also the year in which China, then the world’s sixth economy (today it is the second, and should be the first before the end of this decade), was held by the World Trade Organization (WTO). got included in.

Since Beijing-2008 was a kind of calling card for China’s reinstatement in world geopolitics, the communist dictatorship allowed freedoms for foreign journalists to succeed, in line with what South Korea had achieved with the 1988 Games in Seoul. Tried to show a more tolerant aspect of making. And creating the infamous “protest park” during the event, for which protesters had to sign up in advance, apparently didn’t work: risk-takers withdrew their registration, were denied permission and/or or arrested.

Today, foreign correspondents continue to report harassment and intimidation, and heavy crackdown on protests in Hong Kong between 2019 and 2020, with the latter applying a serious national security law, has little chance of quelling voices of dissent in February. will be accepted. Even laughable protest parks weren’t considered.

The backlash in Hong Kong and the persecution of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang are the main arguments for a diplomatic boycott that the United States and allies would do against the Beijing Winter Games (athletes from these countries would still participate in disputes), but the respective governments of the Chinese will not send a representative to the capital).

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The Chinese dictatorship has expressed unease in protesting these boycotts, but will not make concessions to sideline the situation. Quite the contrary: he is ready to show that his way of working is an ideal that should be followed.

Late last year, in response to a summit on democracy hosted by US President Joe Biden, to which it was not invited (as was Russia), Beijing issued a statement titled “China: Democracy that Works”. in which he claimed that his political system was democratic and superior to that of the West.

The New York Times Beijing bureau chief Steven Lee Myers highlighted in an article published last year that, in contrast to what happened before the 2008 Olympics, “practically no one today believes that the Games are being held.” Doing so will soften China’s behavior”.

“At the time, Chinese leaders promised concessions to at least basic democratic freedoms to show that they would be worthy hosts. The current leader, Xi Jinping, is more confident, and neither willing to compromise And China is no longer a rising capitalist power, but the world’s second largest economy, competing face-to-face with the United States for global influence,” he argued.

Jennifer Hsu, a researcher at the University of New South Wales in Australia, highlighted in a recent article published on The Conversation website that “China doesn’t care what the West thinks”, and that the Beijing Winter Sports is yet another display of force. , at a time when the country seeks to increase its geopolitical influence rather than be an opening to the world.

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“China’s development model has long attracted praise from African countries, particularly for its form of state-directed capitalism. By hosting its second Olympics in less than 20 years, China is sending that message to developing countries. is strengthening – that its development model works,” he explained. “The 2008 Olympics exposed the naivety of the international community: to believe that sport can bring about political change.”

About the author: Sarah Gracie

"Proud social media buff. Unapologetic web scholar. Internet guru. Lifelong music junkie. Travel specialist."

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