A different Beijing Olympics

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics were seen as a party debut for the new China’s economic and geopolitical powerhouse. Despite all the power projection of the grand simultaneous opening ceremony, attendees remembered the warm atmosphere of the Olympics and the joy of Beijingers welcoming tourists from all over the world. Many Western capitals believe the event affirms their optimistic vision of China’s growing integration into the international community – a system that will, over time, become closer to their own. Fourteen years later, Beijing Winter Olympics The opening next Friday takes place in a very different Chinese and different global context.

It seems a little surreal that the Olympics are taking place at a time when the Omicron variants have brought coronavirus cases to new global highs and where they will be used almost exclusively artificial snow. they will be in a “closed loop” 11,000 of those tourists will be trapped in three race areas 111 miles apart, completely isolated from the Chinese.

This bubble aims to prevent infection Relations between Olympic participants and their local communities, fueled by Beijing’s still-adherent zero-coronavirus policy. But it is at least a partial metaphor for today’s China: a China that has moved strongly away from engagement with the West, especially from any idea of ??integration into a Western-dominated international order.

Many Chinese blame the West for the division. The US is increasingly distrusting the country it now sees as its main strategic competitor. The trade war launched by the Trump administration has not been resolved by the Biden White House.However China’s transformation Earlier, as a Politburo member, the person in charge of the final preparations for the Beijing Summer Olympics: Xi Jinping.

In 2008, the United States and its allies demanded political freedom, still believing that incorporating China into the global trading system and strengthening economic ties would empower the middle class.

In 2022, China does have a large middle class, record numbers Billionaires and a strong economy. But it has turned to more authoritarian rule at home and combative relations abroad. A secret Communist Party document circulated in 2012 — a few months before Xi Jinping became party general secretary and then president — highly criticized supposedly malicious ideals spreading in China, such as constitutional democracy, civil society and universal values. , and warned Western “anti-China” forces”. Xi Jinping took strong action to stop the spread.

China under Xi Jinping has mainly cracked down on Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang and the opposition in Hong Kong, cracking down on domestic dissidents and reining in private companies seen as challenges to state power. It claims sovereignty over the South China Sea and takes aggressive action against foreign critics.

As a result, the Winter Olympics faced a diplomatic boycott – the US, UK, Australia, Canada and others – which did not materialise in 2008. Today’s leadership in Beijing doesn’t care. Domestic media will tell the story of China overcoming difficulties and successfully hosting the Olympics, managing the Games fearlessly in the face of the epidemic and attempts by the West to intervene.

Hopes that the 2008 Olympics would be evidence of Beijing’s willingness to join the international order proved false. The 2022 Winter Olympics could be a transit point for China’s ambitions to lead the future world order. It is not the first time in its history that the Western world has regretted how it got China so wrong.

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