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Boycott the Winter Olympics

The Saturday Essay
Boycott the Winter Olympics
By Alex Wilhelm • Issue #6 • View online
Welcome to The Saturday Essay, a relaxed weekend writing project from technology and financial journalist Alex Wilhelm.
The Saturday Essay publishes once per week, on Saturday, discussing business, economics, and politics.

Boycott the upcoming Olympics
We’ll get back to technology and money next week, I promise.
The 2022 Winter Olympics, hosted by China, should not be attended by countries that are committed to democracy, free expression, or liberalism more generally.
This is why it was not surprising – though it was massively disappointing – to see India recently get behind the 2022 Winter Olympics’ host country. It joined Russia in its statements of support.
That does not mean, however, that the United States and other countries have to follow suit. And it is not enough that the United States execute some thread-the-needle diplomatic compromise that gives the current administration convenient cover that it did something, while actually doing nothing.
There can be no bed-sharing with whole-cloth autocratic regimes that are increasingly bound up in historical myth, sexism, racism, and the centralization of control replete with a strong narrative of national ascendance. Fascism, in other words.
The upcoming Olympics comes on the heels of the Chinese Communist Party celebrating its 100th anniversary of power, and as current CCP premier Xi Jinping intends to cement himself in the highest pantheon of Chinese leaders by taking on a third term, essentially closing his fist around control of his Party, and, by extension, well north of one billion lives.
This is not an accomplishment that we should fete, nor is it is something that we should mark with anything less than scorn.
Xi’s rule in China is increasingly demanding of both the Chinese people, and every country within reach, be it diplomatic, geographic, or economic.
The Communist Party’s goals are not small; control of the South China Sea, economic hegemony through Asia and into Europe, not to mention an incredibly long-term project to economically colonize Africa.
Domestically China demands control of how its people learn, communicate, execute business, and congregate. Supreme control rests in the Party’s hands – Xi’s hands – leaving no room for individual thought inside of the country.
And then there’s its enforcement of new laws against pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong, its endless bullying of smaller nations with everything from water cannons to international agitation, the crackdown on feminist groups and the reporting of sexual assault, not to mention clampdown on LGBTQ and religious groups, and the CCP’s project to destroy the Uyghur people and culture.
There is precisely no reason to support the Chinese government. To give it any credibility is to tacitly endorse its goals.
Which is why the recent decision by women’s tennis to boycott the country was so very important. The decision showed that it is possible to not play by China’s rules. You simply don’t have to do business there if your morals – which is to say that you think self-determination, free speech, and democracy are worth fighting for – are in opposition to what the CCP is busy constructing.
I do not think that the centrally-planned, high-control method governance that China is pursuing will come out atop the global order long-term. But it wields power today and that’s something that we can combat by declining to participate in its attempts at self-sanitation through the hosting of feel-good international events.
Would it be a gut-punch for American athletes to not get to participate in the upcoming Olympics? Yes. But the other option is to let the Chinese Communist Party leverage the Winter sporting competition as an international and domestic PR coup. That must be greater anathema to our conscience than simply losing a shot at a few medals.
Recall that the United States is both a wealthy nation, and one that has rather a lot of sports stadiums. We could host our own games, in protest, if we weren’t so shockingly afraid of our own shadow.
But let’s not get bogged down in national despair, and the shrinking of our goals as a collective. Let us stay focused on the Chinese government’s larger project to ethnically cleanse, to steal, to bully, and to chip away at self-rule both inside its borders and outside.
We should not show up – at a very minimum – to its party.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Alex Wilhelm

A weekly essay digging into economics, startups, and fun. Written by Alex Wilhelm, a medium-quality nerd and S-1 fanatic.

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