Thursday Observations: U.S. quickly tamps down Olympic boycott talk
A State Department spokesman suggested earlier this week that the U.S. and its Western allies were considering a joint boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing to protest China’s human rights abuses against Uyghurs, Tibetans and residents of Hong Kong.
There’s apparently been pushback.
“Our position on the 2022 Olympics has not changed. We have not discussed and are not discussing any joint boycott with allies and partners,” a senior State Department official wrote in an emailed statement to CNBC, walking back the comments from State Department spokesman Ned Price, who had said on Tuesday that “I wouldn’t want to put a timeframe on it, but these discussions are underway.”
The quick about face brings to mind the indelicate walkback of the NBA after Daryl Morey, then the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted support for Hong Kong protestors in 2019, drawing the ire of the Chinese government, to the point that state broadcasters dropped broadcasts of NBA games.
It was one thing for the U.S. and the West to boycott the Moscow Summer Olympics in 1980, for the Soviets to return the favor in boycotting the Los Angeles Summer Games in 1984 – money wasn’t an issue between the U.S. and Soviet Union, who had almost no economic ties in the Cold War era.
Our interconnected 21st century world presents uncomfortable economic entanglements for those who desire to take symbolic positions.
Basically, go ahead and take your symbolic position, but as the NBA learned, quickly, that symbolic position can cost you billions, in terms of being cut off from access to China’s consumer markets.
Story by Chris Graham