How Beijing 2022 Olympics became a trap for China

How Beijing 2022 Olympics became a trap for China

The Olympic Games – That’s a historic precedent: By hosting the world’s best athletes in ice and ice rinks from February 4-20, Beijing will be the first city to host both the Winter and Summer Olympics. A major achievement for a country that has been trying for decades to smash its image as an authoritarian regime. And that’s in particular through sports, the place of influence and soft power if there was.

“For all world powers, sport occupies an important place in Chinese diplomacy”, from the beginning Camille BruggerChinese specialist at the Strategic Research Institute of the Military School. “Quand on aspire à être une grande puissance technologique, économique, diplomatique, comme veut l’être la Chine, le sport fait partie des atours dont il faut se doter”, confirms Marc Julienne, responsable de la Chine à l’Institut frança International relations.

“At a time of great competition with the United States, and more generally with Western countries, China wanted to create a moment of respite with these Olympic Games,” analyzes Camille Brugier. For the researcher, thanks to the global audience of international competitions, Beijing wanted to “highlight its model and infrastructure, show a country more advanced than the world imagines, and improve its image.” All this while activating the national reflection among the population and using sport as a “means of growth”, adds Marc Julian, by creating recreation and tourism and motivating people to practice winter sports.

2008 Beijing ‘turning point’

Obviously, trying to replicate the success of the 2008 Summer Olympics, was a real “turning point” in the Chinese approach to the sport, according to Camille Bruget. Long prepared, by investing in infrastructure construction and training high-level athletes, this 2008 Beijing Olympics truly prepared a pivotal moment, as China became the first country in more than 70 years to outperform the United States and Russia (or the Union of Republics). USSR) in medal standings.

The end of hegemony whose benefits are still felt today, for thirty years China has established itself as a stronghold of world Olympic sport. And if it’s currently struggling to turn that success into winter, lacking a niche as a medal resource like diving, table tennis or gymnastics, the efforts on short track or free skating are beginning to pay off.

Because China is not afraid to deploy large resources to find a place at the table of major sporting nations and benefit from the same effect. It is, for example, looking for increased influence at the level of the governing bodies of world sport. Since November 2020, she has chaired the International Sailing Federation, one of the 40 federations representing Olympic disciplines, and has more and more VPs in these institutions, which is the best starting point for the presidency. In addition, the country is also expanding its network in more clandestine but growing sports, such as new Olympic disciplines such as skateboarding or rock climbing.

Football as a sacred sporting trophy

And China is also growing in major sports, with the telling example of the plan that should lead the men’s soccer team to victory in the World Cup by 2050. A somewhat crazy dream embodied in decisions on an unprecedented scale: this sport is taught to millions of children in school, And the tens of thousands of academies that opened in a few years, fields that are emerging from the ground at an incredible speed…, the means have been put in place to strive for excellence in the No. 1 sport in the world. As far as the very high level is concerned, “the idea is to attract famous players and coaches to the Chinese Championship to raise the level of full discipline,” defines Mark Julian.

Abroad, too, the Chinese want to find a place for themselves. In Africa, for example, by creating high-quality infrastructure and especially stadiums, China wants to continue to establish itself as a privileged interlocutor for local leaders and be seen as a benevolent support for the population. While it is obtained by chance, in exchange for these pitches offered free of charge, on counterparties such as the exploitation of minerals, the spread in some markets and electoral support in some global bodies such as the World Trade Organization or the United Nations.

And in the western, more prestigious tournaments, the existing strength allows some very wealthy personalities and groups to invest. With little sporting success at the moment – neither Sochaux nor Auxerre frankly crush the French championship, and adventures at Atletico Madrid or Inter Milan in particular – but the goal is broader. In franceinfo, Carol Gomez, sports geopolitics specialist and director of research at Iris recently explained: “Xi Jinping encouraged business leaders to invest in football by explaining to them that sports can be a gateway to entering the European or international market.”

Bjo boycott “contempt”

But this beautiful dynamic and these projects may find themselves undermined for the Olympics in February. “What was interesting for China is that so far sport has not been a controversial topic. It is well on its way to becoming one,” says Camille Brugier, of the Institute for Strategic Research at the Military School. This has been seen with the diplomatic boycott declared by several Western countries ( The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Denmark, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, etc.) in response to attacks on the human rights of Uyghurs.

Mark Julian asserts that it is a real “political contempt” for the Chinese authorities. Camille Brugier confirms, recalling the “slap” with the absence of the most important world leaders during the opening ceremony of the Games. Researcher Evry continues: “It is more symbolic because the boycott is followed by an entire coalition of countries, including major world and sporting powers, and thus constitutes a real attack on China’s image.”

The proof of the impact of this boycott is the embarrassing reaction of China, which provoked “political attitudes” and “insult” of its people. Through the voice of the State Department spokesperson, Beijing certainly wanted to be cynical about the scope of the gesture: “American politicians conduct diplomatic boycotts when they are not invited.” But Mark Julian adds that the fact that China has issued in the wake of threats to impose sanctions on countries that refuse to send representation shows real discomfort.

photo war

Especially since this Western act is part of the case of Peng Shuai, this tennis player who disappeared after accusing a member of the Communist Party of sexual violence. “The timing couldn’t be more disturbing for Beijing,” Mark Julian notes. “With all the world tennis games mobilized, China couldn’t accuse the hostile governments because they are players with millions Followers who spoke.”

Since the situation did not exist within the borders, managing the crisis was particularly difficult for the authorities. The researcher concludes that “China wants to use sports and major events to spread a good image, but the opposite is what is happening at the moment.”

So, to prevent the Winter Games from turning into a poisoned gift and turning into a Chinese failure, Camille Brugier is already fantasizing about local authorities trying to “save the furniture.” “I think they will try to underestimate the value of the event so that residents will realize less that the event has been boycotted and that the athletes are not necessarily at the level. By calling out Covid, they have already made sure that no one is in the stands.

But for the researcher, it is already certain that the event will not be successful in terms of image, neither domestically nor internationally. “The only thing China will not be able to do is limit the visibility of the opening ceremony,” however, warns Camille Brugier. So it’s easy to imagine Xi Jinping getting off the ground with ostensible allies like Vladimir Putin, and the scant absence of Western leaders. Proof that the fight for soft power It will be held until the last minute at the Beijing 2022 Olympics.

See also on HuffPost: In Hong Kong, a statue commemorating the crackdown on Tiananmen is disassembled

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.