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Will the United States Boycott the Beijing 2022 Olympics?

A U.S. diplomatic boycott of Beijing 2022 is still possible, but a full-scale snub is likely to remain a Cold War relic.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Rehearsals take place for the Olympic flame’s lighting ceremony.
Rehearsals take place for the Olympic flame’s lighting ceremony in Olympia, Greece, on Oct. 17. Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Greece lights the Olympic flame for Beijing 2022, Myanmar is set to release more than 5,000 political prisoners, and the world this week.

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Olympic Flame Reignites U.S. Debate on Beijing Games

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Greece lights the Olympic flame for Beijing 2022, Myanmar is set to release more than 5,000 political prisoners, and the world this week.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

Olympic Flame Reignites U.S. Debate on Beijing Games

The Olympic flame for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games officially ignites today in Olympia, Greece, beginning a global journey before the festivities formally open in February.

Protests against the 2022 Winter Olympics have already begun in Athens. Two people were arrested on Sunday for unfurling banners in support of independence for Tibet and Hong Kong.

Human rights organizations affiliated with marginalized groups in China, including the Uyghurs of Xinjiang, have called on countries not to send athletes to the Beijing Winter Games, citing “clear evidence of genocide and widespread and worsening human rights failures,” in China.

Although the United States has yet to decide its position, an all-out boycott—as was seen in the 1980 Moscow Olympics in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan—seems a remote possibility.

That’s not for lack of pressure from those on Capitol Hill. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers urged the International Olympic Committee to move the Games to a different venue unless China released the estimated 1 million Uyghurs from detention centers in Xinjiang.

A group of Republican lawmakers went further earlier in the year, calling for a full boycott if the Winter Games weren’t moved. Perhaps with one eye on the 2024 presidential primaries, Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have also called for the United States to shun the 2022 Olympics.

That stance is far from uniform among GOP lawmakers, with Sens. Ted Cruz and Mitt Romney both in favor of sending U.S. athletes, a position they share with party standard-bearer and former U.S. President Donald Trump. “You go. You compete. You win,” Trump said in June.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also pushed the compromise position: a diplomatic boycott—as she did in 2008 when Beijing hosted the Summer Games. The European Parliament passed a resolution calling for one in July, and so did British Parliament soon after.

Balancing act. The United States eventual decision on the issue may depend on the progress, or lack thereof, in the U.S.-China diplomatic relationship in the next few months. Signposts include the planned virtual summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping before the year is out as well as ongoing trade talks.

Eyes elsewhere. Those fearing a bump in Chinese prestige from February’s Games may be heartened by viewership figures from the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics. In the United States, Tokyo’s opening ceremony drew the lowest audience in 33 years, while in Germany, there was a 73 percent drop in viewers compared to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The World This Week

On Tuesday, Oct. 19, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Ecuador for meetings with Ecuadoran President Guillermo Lasso and Foreign Minister Mauricio Montalvo.

On Wednesday, Oct. 20, Blinken travels to Colombia for a two-day visit that includes meetings with Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez and Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez.

Russia hosts representatives from China, Pakistan, Iran, and India as well as the Taliban for talks on Afghanistan’s future.

The World Trade Organization conducts a three-day review of China’s trade policies and practices.

On Thursday, Oct. 21, EU heads of state and government convene in Brussels for a two-day meeting of the European Council.

NATO defense ministers gather in Brussels for two days of meetings.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to address the Valdai Discussion Club, a think tank.

On Friday, Oct. 22, Putin meets with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Sochi, Russia.

On Sunday, Oct. 24, Uzbekistan holds its presidential election.

What We’re Following Today

Taiwan talk. China reacted angrily on Sunday after both Canada and the United States sent warships through the Taiwan Strait last week. A spokesperson for China’s People’s Liberation Army accused the United States and Canada of “seriously jeopardizing peace” and colluding to “provoke and stir up trouble” in the contested region. The U.S. military said the maneuver was meant to demonstrate “the commitment of the United States and our allies and partners to a free and open Indo-Pacific.” The U.S. Navy has sent a ship through the strait at a rate of at least one a month since Biden took office.

Myanmar’s prisoners. Myanmar’s junta leader, Min Aung Hlaing, announced the release of more than 5,000 prisoners arrested for protesting the Feb. 1 military coup. The decision comes days after it emerged the military chief would not be included in an upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leader’s summit later this month. ASEAN will instead invite a nonpolitical representative from Myanmar to join the summit, the organization said.

Keep an Eye On

Hungarys opposition. Peter Marki-Zay will lead Hungary’s opposition into elections next year as its candidate for prime minister after he won an unprecedented primary of six opposition parties on Sunday. Marki-Zay, the mayor of Hodmezovasarhely (population: 47,000) won out over Social Democrat Klara Dobrev in the second round of voting.

Marki-Zay, who is a conservative Catholic, is regarded as having a decent chance against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, given that he has already defeated Orbans Fidesz party in the sort of rural districts that will be crucial in a national election. He is hoping to follow in the Czech Republic’s footsteps, where an ideologically diverse coalition recently defeated Andrej Babis’s party in parliamentary elections. Polls currently show Fidesz neck-and-neck with the opposition slate.

Belarus v. France Belarus expelled Nicolas de Bouillane de Lacoste, France’s ambassador to the country, for undisclosed reasons, the French Embassy in Minsk reported on Sunday. The Belarusian ambassador to France, Igor Fesenko, has also been recalled. The latest spat may have been caused by a meeting Lacoste held last week with Govori Pravdu, a recently banned nongovernmental organization and one whose co-leader, Andrey Dmitriev, stood as a candidate in the 2020 presidential election.

Odds and Ends

One of Spain’s most celebrated female authors is in fact three middle-aged men. The ruse was uncovered on Saturday night in Barcelona as the three men, all accomplished television writers, took the stage to accept a 1 million euro award bestowed on Carmen Mola, a pseudonymous author of three acclaimed crime novels.

The writers have been criticized for their literary sleight of hand and have been accused of posing as a woman to boost sales. “I don’t know if a female pseudonym would sell more than a male one. I don’t have the faintest idea, but I doubt it,” Antonio Mercero, one of the trio, told El País. “We didn’t hide behind a woman. We hid behind a name.”

Correction, Oct. 18, 2021: Mohak Shroff is LinkedIn’s senior vice president of engineering; Friday’s edition misspelled his name.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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