China takes advantage of the winter Olympics to reaffirm itself





China opens the Winter Olympics this Friday, the second Olympic event it has organized in its history after the 2008 Summer Games. The event will be marred by the pandemic, which forces strict security measures, and, to a lesser extent, by a US diplomatic blockade and his closest allies, who have not sent government delegations.

The appointment will be an opportunity for Beijing shows the world and its people its strength amid COVID-19, and also to symbolize its closeness to Russia at a time when this country is facing a crisis on its western flank over Ukraine.

China tries to improve its image amid the pandemic

Virtually isolated from the outside since 2020 due to the pandemic, China has timidly opened its borders for the Games, which will be held under strict health security measures. Days before the start, massive screenings were carried out on the population, and the athletes and workers from abroad will remain isolated in a bubble. The spectators have been previously selected and must undergo tests before, during and after the games.

Despite the limitations, Raphael Good, director of the Department of Politics and Society at Casa Asia, considers, in statements to RTVE.es, that Beijing wants to take advantage of the opportunity to “demonstrate how they can, in the midst of a pandemic, hold an Olympic Games, and how well China has done.”

Well remember the background of the 2008 Summer Olympics, which put the Asian giant on the map as a great modern power. These new games are “a reaffirmation,” he adds.

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For its part, Mario Esteban, a researcher at the Elcano Royal Institute (RIE), stresses that the Winter Olympic Games have less international projection than the summer ones, and that both the countries with the greatest tradition in this type of sport and those that dominate the medal table are partners or allies of USA The most important thing for the Chinese authorities is the internal dimension.

“In the domestic sphere, it is used as a sign of the international prestige of the country and of the authorities. Hosting major international events is a way of telling the population that China is internationally admired and recognized,” he explains to RTVE.es.

US diplomatic boycott

China’s image campaign has been a bit complicated. United States, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and Japan, among other countries, have launched a diplomatic boycott of the Games: they will not send government delegations, although their athletes do participate, so it will not affect the competition. Germany for its part has announced that it will not send its foreign and sports ministers.

The alleged reason is China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region. After several attacks against Chinese targets (including one in Tiananmen Square in October 2013, with five dead), China has locked up around a million people in camps that the authorities describe as “provisional training centers” to combat religious extremism.

Beijing denies any human rights violations, condemns the boycott and accuses the United States of meddling in its internal affairs.

This political blockade is flimsy and it has been left without effect from the moment in which there are great powers that are going to attend”, affirms Rafael Bueno, who cites the presence of Russia.

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Putin takes the opportunity to show his alliance with China

And it is that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, will be one of the leaders who attend the inauguration. Putin announced that he would meet with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping to discuss, among other issues, security in Europe and the Ukraine crisis, in which China has supported Russia’s demands for security guarantees.

Rafael Bueno points out the importance of the meeting. “The Ukraine thing is one more chapter, it is no stranger to the global rearrangement that is taking place. For Putin, having China as a great partner and ally and as a response to the US and Europe is essential. They are going to stage a very close relationship and a strengthened relationship as opposed to the model that the US intends., based on Western rules and the model that survived during the 20th century. We are going to see a Russia and China getting closerDespite the fact that they have historically had great differences, their relationship has not always been friendly.

“Clearly, Putin tries to give a political value to the visit“, explains Mario Esteban. “Both have met regularly on many occasions. During the pandemic they have seen each other telematically and this is the first time they are going to see each other face to face. Symbolically it is important.

“At a time of tension between Russia and China against the US and its allies – Esteban continues – the Beijing-Moscow bilateral relationship has reached important milestones in recent months: the renewal of the Good Neighbor Treaty; the roadmap for military cooperation 2021-2025; the lunar research station… Bilateral trade has broken records in 2021. They are communicating vessels: while the relationship between Russia and China with the Western bloc becomes more difficult, it improves between them in strategic areas. Putin’s visit will put a face to all this“.

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The Russian president, however, will not be able to see his athletes parade under the national flag. In 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned Russia from major international competitions for four years over doping cases. Russian athletes who have been shown to be clean compete representing their federations, not the country.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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