The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Sports

The Case for Boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics in China

There is no other way to prevent the games from becoming a propaganda showcase for a brutally oppressive regime.

|

As the Washington Post recently reported, human rights activists and others are advocating a boycott of the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, because of the Chinese government's many egregious atrocities, including its detention of hundreds of thousands of Uighurs in concentration camps, brutal repression in Hong Kong, and much else.

Calls for a boycott are justified. The present Chinese government isn't just any dictatorship. It is one of the worst human rights abusers in the entire world. And there is no other way to prevent the Olympic Games from becoming a propaganda showcase for this regime.  Chinese dissident and human rights lawyer Teng Biao recently called for a boycott for that very reason. We should listen to him.

Most of what I wrote in this 2016 article  on sports boycotts applies to the Chinese case in spades (see also here for a more complete version):

For decades, people of goodwill have debated whether liberal democracies should boycott Olympic Games and other sports events held under the auspices of repressive governments. Apartheid South Africa was the target of a long-standing sports boycott that denied it the right to even participate in most international sports events, much less host them. Sixty-two nations, including the United States, boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan….

The standard argument against boycotts is the traditional idea that international sports events should be kept free of politics. The problem with this theory is that the Olympics and other similar events are virtually always used as propaganda tools by host governments, as happened with Nazi Germany in 1936, the USSR in 1980, and Vladimir Putin's regime in 2014 [with the Winter Olympics held in Sochi]. For this reason, it is nearly impossible to make them genuinely politically neutral. The only realistic options are either to allow repressive regimes to use the Games to burnish their public image, keep them from hosting in the first place, or forestall their propaganda by means of a boycott that undercuts the Games' public relations benefits for the hosts…

[S]ome [host] governments commit serious human rights violations in the very process of preparing for the games themselves. For example, China forcibly displaced some one million people in order to prepare facilities for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Brazil displaced many thousands in order to build new stadiums for the 2014 World Cup. Even if it is wrong to boycott in protest of "unrelated" human rights violations, the international sports community should not tolerate abuses that are an integral part of the sports event itself.

I have not been able to find figures on forcible displacement in preparation for the 2022 Beijing games. But, given its track record, it would be surprising if China did not engage in that practice this time around.

Some have suggested that, instead of boycotting, Western athletes should hold protests at the games themselves, and use the opportunity to criticize Chinese repression. But any such protests are likely to be drowned out by the media attention devoted to the sports events themselves, and what is likely to be fawning coverage of the hosts' opening ceremonies and other propaganda set-pieces. By contrast, a boycott would focus world attention on the Chinese government's human rights abuses, while simultaneously reducing any PR and economic benefits the regime might earn from the Games. If all or most liberal democracies boycott, TV ratings for the Games will plummet, and media and public attention will instead focus on the boycott itself -as happened during the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Even a widespread boycott may not force the Chinese government to change its policies. But it will at least deny the regime a propaganda victory, and impose a price for its behavior.

If there is a downside to boycotts in such cases, it is the disappointment suffered by athletes who will lose the opportunity to compete at what, for many, is the most prestigious event in their respective sports. But that can potentially be prevented if boycotting states simultaneously pressure the International Olympic Committee to revoke China's right to host the Games and instead shift them elsewhere. I have long argued that the IOC and other similar international bodies should adopt a general policy of banning hosting by repressive regimes. Revoking China's hosting rights would be a good start on the road to eliminating the dark side of the Olympics.

As Teng Biao points out, such a policy would be in accordance with the IOC's own professed principles, since the The Olympic Charter calls for "promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity" and "social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles." Allowing China (and other similar regimes) to host the Olympics is obviously incompatible with these ideals.

If the IOC refuses to see reason, there is also the option of organizing an alternative winter games in a more liberal society. Plenty of democracies have the necessary facilities. If all or most liberal democratic nations boycott, and instead participate in the alternative games, the latter are likely to have a higher standard of performance in most winter sports than the official IOC event. European and North American nations have the lion's share of top athletes in most winter sports.

In the final analysis, no opportunity for athletic achievement is valuable enough to justify promoting the propaganda interests of a regime that has become one of the most brutally oppressive in the world. Ideally, the West and its allies should force the IOC to move the Games. If that cannot be done, we should boycott.

 

NEXT: What Do "Many" of the 140+ Law Professors Think About the First Amendment and Impeachment?

Sports Boycotts China Human rights

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

Please to post comments

101 responses to “The Case for Boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics in China

  1. The IOC has demonstrated since at least 1980 that it’s organizational morals and ethics are worse than those of N. Korea…how could they have a problem with merely China?

  2. I have been boycotting the Olympics since 2000 when the announced that China was getting it the first time. That proved to me their only interest was in money. They always leave their host cities in debt and displace low income communities (Rio). It is nice that others are seeing them for what they are.

    1. >They always leave their host cities in debt

      Huh. Maybe we should have it in China every time, as punishment for being oppressive?

  3. My family is very close to the world of track and field. These people train for years. At only one point every four years does the world pay attention to them. The Olympic medal is the highest honor in the sport. And there’s a very short span when most athletes can compete at a world class level.

    Does Prof. Somin have any conception for how many lives were ruined by Jimmy Carter’s immature boycott of the 1980 Olympics, a boycott which didn’t get the Soviets out of Afghanistan I should add (although that wouldn’t matter to my point if it had)? A whole list of athletes- Dwight Stones, Houston McTear, Mary Decker, etc., lost their best or only chance at an Olympic medal, so that politicians could posture. Carl Lewis might have set a record with a 5th gold medal in the Long Jump (as it stands, he only tied Al Oerter’s record of 4 straight gold medals in the Discus).

    The Olympics is NONE OF POLITICIANS’ AND POLITICAL COMMENTATORS’ BUSINESS. It doesn’t belong to Prof. Somin. It didn’t belong to Jimmy Carter. It didn’t belong to the Soviet leaders who ruined their own athletes’ careers with a retaliatory boycott in 1984.

    People who have no understanding of athletics, of what it is like to dedicate your life to such an amazing, solitary, incredibly hard to reach goal, have no business playing with the lives of those people.

    Heck, we went to the Olympics in fricking Nazi Germany. Summer and Winter. And guess what? Far from handing the Nazis a great victory, we handed them a great defeat, when Jesse Owens embarrassed Hitler by winning 4 gold medals. Imagine if President Roosevelt had said “sorry Jesse, I know you worked hard for this and I know you will never get the chance again, but the Olympics belong to me, not you, and I want to use them to score a political point”.

    The fundamental immorality of Olympic boycotts cannot be overstated. It’s absolutely the worst sort of virtue signaling- a position that makes you feel good about yourself while you are in fact ruining the lives of people you never met and don’t know anything about.

    1. Why should we value athletic achievement of a few people over human rights abuses? Especially when that achievement is as narrowly tailored as ‘olympic medals’.

      Even if we decide athletic achievements matter (most don’t in any real sense), the ones that matter should be objective measurable criteria where the place it was performed simply doesn’t matter. ‘Gold medal in the olympics’ is a nonsense achievement. Who cares how many gold medals Carl Lewis won in the long jump at the Olympics? – we should care about *how far he could jump*. The records you want to defend are meaningless in any real sense.

      And let’s be honest, many of these sports are a function of wealth at least as much as athletic ability. Something simple like 100 yard dash is probably a true demonstration of skill – we know the people doing it probably are the fastest on the planet, because running is something everyone can do and has done. But something like discus or figure skating will rarely be even attempted by most people, much less have the time and money to seriously pursue the activity. And the winter olympics is by far the worst offender, where many of the sports require expensive equipment and access to suitable locations to practice. And don’t get me wrong, at least some of these are performances, and they should be treated as performers (figure skating certainly comes to mind), but if they can’t achieve any kind of public recoginition outside the olympics, maybe they should get better agents?

      1. “Why should we value athletic achievement of a few people over human rights abuses?”

        Because deciding “I’m going to concretely harm some identifiable people in order to do some good that is hard to measure but which I’m sure is much greater than the harm” is a recipe for evil. It’s not as if you can say “I ruin the ambitions of 20 athletes, but that’s okay since I know for certain that 500 fewer people will be tortured.

        Or to put it another way, have you ever read “Those who walk away from Omelas”? It’s wrong to hurt a small group of identifiable people by a large amount just because it does good to a large number of people.

        “Who cares how many gold medals Carl Lewis won in the long jump at the Olympics? – we should care about *how far he could jump*.”

        We should care about how much, in practice, we are harming someone like Carl Lewis and not letting him win medals is the part which leads to harm.

        1. The boycott will do nothing except force the Chinese Communist Party to dig in their heels and be even worse.

          But the sheer hypocrisy, the “rich privilege” for want of a better term, of comparing athletes forfeiting chances to win medals with real genocide, with real people being tortured, murdered, and reeducated, is the kind of claptrap which makes me think the boycott will do some good – if not in China, in the West, and perhaps even in Dilan Esper’s close circle of track and field friends.

          1. Because working hard towards important goals is at the center of human experience, while there are other means of diplomatic protest that don’t involve crapping on athletes?

            1. Olympics is not an individual competition. Participation is an official action, and athletes represent the countries for which they compete. The mere act of attending sanctions the behavior of the host country.

              Stop thinking of the Olympics as just a competition. It’s not.

              1. Thank you for stating what should be obvious. Perhaps the Olympics should be recast as simply a worldwide competition for individual athletes. But until that happens, it is an event of nations.

              2. BS. Politicians don’t get to compete and nobody gives a crap what they think at the games. Nor does anyone with 1 IQ point of intelligence actually think all the countries that attend are endorsing the host’s politics. FFS Turkey sent a team to Athens and Taiwan sent one to Beijing.

        2. Unless you favor a literal invasion of China, which is batshit crazy, the only way to force China to modify its behavior is to ostracize it from the international community. That means, among other things, not sending athletes to officially represent the US at a competition held in China.

          If the athletes would (or even could) go of their own accord, well, that’s on them (and i’d be justified in thinking they’re terrible human beings). But at the Olympics, athletes represent their nation – it’s an official act of the US, not just a competition, and treating it as just a competition misses the value that China gets out of it.

          There are 380 suspected concentration camps in China for Uighurs right now, with at least 1 million and more likely 3 million Uighurs detained. Is there a guarantee ostracizing China will work? No. But giving their actions *official sanction* by participating willingly and happily in the Olympics makes us *complicit* in the harm done. It’s not some intangible harm, our official sanction would be a concrete harm.

          1. Donald Trump had a better idea: Tariffs…

            We weren’t trading with the USSR in 1980.

            1. Really? Someone should probably have told President Carter that when he instituted a US grain embargo against the Soviet Union. No need, since we weren’t trading with them.

              1. Not the same way. And the grain had been controversial all the way back to Nixon.

          2. What? You have horrible values. What gives you the right to call athletes who just want the compete horrible people because they don’t participate in your geopolitical fantasyland?

            1. Let’s establish an ethical baseline: If I pay someone for a good produced with slave labor, am i a horrible person?

      2. “Why should we value athletic achievement of a few people over human rights abuses?”

        Because individuals matter more than governments?

        1. Individuals are harmed by human rights abuses.

          Is it okay to boycott Apple when they use suppliers who use slave labor in China? That hurts individuals, but those individuals are contributing directly to harm to other individuals.

          While slightly less direct, supporting China-held Olympics in any sense helps them whitewash human rights abuses.

          ‘Never again’ is apparently just words to some people. (Yes, what China is doing is genocide).

          1. “Never again” is not a call for very indirect action. If the athletes were running over a track which has embedded switches such that each 10 feet the athlete ran, a person died, sure, stop the athletes. If the connection is as indirect as “having the athletes there gives China more publicity, and having more publicity makes it incrementally easier to abuse human rights”, I don’t buy it. You’re trading a concrete harm that falls on specific people for a general benefit that you’re unable to calculate. At least the people in Omelas knew that if they hurt the child, the population would actually benefit.

            1. You’re arguing for concession to a privileged few over an assertion of mral authority.

    2. Let’s rephrase that.

      Does Dilan Esper have any conception for how many Uighur and other lives are being ruined right now by the Chinese Communist Party?

      I suspect not, and I also suspect that Dilan Esper doesn’t give a shit about people whose actual lives are being ruined, as long as his precious friends can run and jump for medals once every four years.

      Oh the humanity! Will no one think of the track and field athletes?

      1. Amen. Moreover, these Olympics offer Biden the chance to show whether he has any but old shriveled balled let in dealing with the greatest abuser of human rights on the planet.

      2. Would boycotting the Olympics have any positive effect on Uighurs, or Tibetans, or Falun Gong members, or any of China’s many other oppressed groups? Or would it just make people feel good about themselves, probably including Chinese despots?

        1. It depends on how it was presented. If the President was someone with some spine and principles [30 minute laughter break] he would call up the leaders of all of the freedom-loving nations of the world, and they would jointly announce a boycott of the Chinese Olympics to protest that country’s blatant violation of international law, including by committing genocide. If 30 or 40 such countries did that, that would make them sit up and take notice.

          1. A trade embargo would be more effective…

            1. Not working Ed. The Chinese have countries by the balls on that score. One needs to start slowly. Trump’s tariffs moved in the right direction, but they were not matched with other actions. Now it is Biden’s turn to show if he has any spine.

      3. BS. I care a lot about those folks. So much that I was a strong opponent of free trade with China in the 1990’s.

        Denying free trade with China (1) wasn’t symbolic and (2) didn’t turn the lives of athletes into a political pawn.

        If you really believe the crap you are writing, it would mean the US should just withdraw from the Olympics entirely. After all, almost any country it is held in will have human rights abuses, and at least that would let athletes know that their country doesn’t give a crap about them and they should move somewhere else to compete.

        1. So, you don’t think we should trade freely with them, but you do think our athletes should compete at their games, boosting their tourism income, and giving them a propaganda triumph?

          Competitions are trade. Be consistent.

          1. I did not think we should agree to trade concessions in the ’90’s. Now it is too late.

        2. “almost any country it is held in will have human rights abuses,”

          I generally respect you, but this is absurd. No country is perfect, but to compare China to countries like Canada, South Korea, Italy and the U.S., who have recently hosted the Winter Olympics, is risible.

          It’s like saying Charles Manson is the same as the guy who has 50 unpaid parking tickets.

          1. They held it in Brazil in 2016. Greece in 2004. Australia in 2000. The US in 1996. All with huge human rights violations.

            At any event what makes you think the rest of the world wants to do some League of Democracies BS? They will just hold the Olympics without us and our athletes will get screwed, just like 1980.

    3. It’s something that Somin doesn’t really value, so he’s happy to get rid of it.

      1. That’s the point. It’s “I dislike athletics” dressed up as concern for human rights.

        1. It’s not that he dislikes athletes.

          He just doesn’t appear to really value the Olympics. It’s always easier to dispense or bargain away with something that you don’t really value, even if other people do value it.

    4. Well, they could always take the approach of the Jamacian Bobsled Team — which, unlike the Sweedish Bikini Team — does exist…

    5. This is a terrible take — as usual. The Olympics actually are politicians’ business. It isn’t a private athletic competition. It’s a national athletic competition.

      1. That’s totally false. It is demented to think that athletes don’t matter to an athletic competition.

        1. That is certainly a thing I didn’t say.

          1. You basically did, because that was the argument (that the Olympics belong to athletes, not politicians) you were saying was wrong.

            1. “Basically” is doing so much work in your sentence that it should sue for FLSA violations.

              “Belong to” and “don’t matter” are not the same concept. This is not a private endeavor; nobody is suggesting telling athletes that they may not compete in China or against Chinese athletes, like the BDS people want to do with Israel. These people are competing for the government team.

  4. There are ways to undermine the propaganda show. Jesse Owens proved this in 1936. And you don’t have to salute and cheer the Chinese state.

    The only thing boycotting does is punish the athletes, at what in many cases would be the pinnacle of years of hard work.

    1. Sure, once again cave to the craven. And China will keep up its genocidal ways.

      1. And I’m sure a boycott would make them stop. Right?

        1. Stop? Perhaps not. But a boycott will make it more difficult for other nations to keep their heads in the sand and pretend that everything’s okay in China.

          1. I’m not convinced this true, nor that it would have meaningful results even if it were. But I’m open to persuasion if you care to give it a try…

        2. Depends on how many nations boycott and how much face China will lose.
          If you give up before attempting to influence, YOU lose.

    2. “And you don’t have to salute and cheer the Chinese state.”

      Actually, I’m hearing that athletes are being warned that they’d better if they don’t want to wind up in a ChiCom prison…

      1. “And you don’t have to salute and cheer the Chinese state.”

        Actually, I’m hearing that athletes are being warned that they’d better if they don’t want to wind up in a ChiCom prison…

        https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-canadian-athletes-cautioned-on-speaking-out-at-beijing-olympics/

  5. How about, instead of boycotting the Olympics, we start making serious long-term strategic plans for reclaiming our position of leadership in science and technology? We need to stop with the petty, ham-handed symbolism and get back to thinking like grown-ups.

    1. Yes, we should gain those leadership positions that we have lost. But don’t give us a MAGA-like line.
      Our position in S&T does not stop massive human-rights abuses. But you could bury your head in the sand and not look.

      1. Our position in S&T means that if we tell another country that we object to their human-rights abuses, they will be more likely to listen to us, and less likely to laugh at us. Because if they don’t listen, we will be able to punish them.

        1. Hah! That never has worked except in the case of “StarWars” in which the Soviet state knew that it could not outspend the US in the relevant technologies.

  6. Boycotting, unless it completely cancels the event, may reduce the number of of commercial enterprises profiting from the event, but likely results in spreading the profits among fewer of them. Boycotts are occasionally successful, but more often a losing game. Too early to know,, but I wouldn’t try to profit off this boycott.

    1. I’m guessing the only commercial enterprises damaged by this boycott would be US based airlines…

  7. Xi: I think Americans should stop being racist and take in millions more destitute third world immigrants….as long as they vote leftwing.

    Somin: WTF I love China now!

  8. On one hand, I don’t think boycotting will end the horrific abuses by China. BUT . . . the fact that the IOC awards games to China, Russia, etc, is so awful, so amoral. Maybe a few boycotts will say to the IOC, “Do not EVER AGAIN award the Olympics to a country that has an undisputed record of severe human rights abuses. If you do, then those games will be a pale shadow.”

    There are a small handful of countries that both (a) want the games and (b) are flagrant about human rights abuses. I’m confident that the IOC could award games to countries that, at the very least, are not among the worst of the worst.

    Would a boycott actually accomplish enough good to outweigh the harms? I dunno. But I would not reject boycotts out-of-hand either.

    1. You need to understand that the Olympics are supposed to be universal. Excluding countries with human rights abuses would simply destroy international sports competition.

      Now maybe you would prefer a feeling of moral superiority to actually competing with other countries. But that’s a highly questionable position.

      1. Human rights are supposed to be universal, too. A boycott, and the ensuing lack of prestige, may just cause China to sit up and take notice. Or do you believe China is a lost cause?

      2. “You need to understand that the Olympics are supposed to be universal. Excluding countries with human rights abuses would simply destroy international sports competition.”
        Maybe, but unless we dare to venue to square one, regain a position of moral authority is going nowhere.

      3. Dilian — South Africa was excluded…

        1. True. Because the international community actually agreed on that one. And a number of South African athletes got to compete for other countries, like Zola Budd and Sidney Maree.

          Nothing comparable to keyboardists with zero talent pissing on a bunch of highly talented American athletes and ruining their lives to feel virtuous.

  9. What Somin calls for is intensification of the chauvinistic nationalism which has been the bane of the Olympics since at least 1968. I gave up watching because of it.

    The right solution is to get Olympic sponsors to commit to celebrating the athletes, and the spirit of athletics, and to crack down on every officially supported manifestation of nationalism. Extend that to the television coverage, by contract provisions.

    By the way, Esper’s point should not be ignored.

    1. And for the same reason, get rid of Olympic team sports.

    2. I’m shocked that Lathrop comes down against speech. Again.

      1. Nieporent, what do you object to? Purposeful advocacy? Purposeful advocacy which excludes points of view you happen to prefer? Is your objection to the right of private parties to choose the speech they prefer? Is it private contracts about speech, or agreements to speak in concert that bothers you? Is it my criticism of a point of view you happen to favor (if you do)? What?

        1. I object to your reflexive position that the best approach is to limit speech.

  10. Boycotting the Olympics is basically just virtue signalling and will have no real effect on Chinese action, while selectively affecting a class of people (athletes) very significantly.

    If you want to hit the Chinese where it hurts, do it in the pocketbook. And do it hard.

    Institute 100% large tariffs on a wide variety of manufactured products, from Steel to toys, to machinery, to furniture. Couple this with targeted stimulus spending to build factories in the US to replace these imported goods with US manufactured goods.

    By causing a large dent in China’s export economy, you’ll actually affect them. Simultaneously, you’ll help the US working class. That’s a winning strategy.

    1. “Boycotting the Olympics is basically just virtue signalling”
      No, it is starting to put the squeeze on China. If the EU and USA boycotted AND we get even firmer about trade and theft of intellectual property AND we help countries in southeast Asia resist Chinese pressure, maybe your descendants won’t have to learn Mandarin

      1. That “if” is carrying a lot of weight. The odds that the EU would join our boycott seem awfully slim, and I’m not convinced China cares that much about world opinion. A US/EU economic boycott could affect their human rights conduct, but the odds on that are even slimmer. That would have to be a very long game given China’s position as the world’s factory. It would take decades to restore full-scale manufacturing capability and the economics of such will prevent it happening absent some rather draconian government intervention. Odds of that slimmer still. JMHO.

        1. In other words, you just cave to the hegemon. Start studying your Mandarin. It takes learning a few thousand characters just to read the newspaper.
          Besides even left wing intellectuals in the EU are worrying about domination by China.

      2. An Olympics boycott is just signaling, without any real effect.

        Remember when the Soviet Union and Iran boycotted the 1984 Olympic games?

        Firm tariffs are a better notion.

    2. No, you’d hurt the U.S. working class.

      1. “You’d hurt the US working class”

        By providing them with jobs? With protection from Chinese undercutting them on wages and environmental protections? By having the needed medical protective equipment actually manufactured in the US, as opposed to in China….so that the next time it’s needed, China can put the breaks on it again?

        I’m well aware of how tariffs work. Would they raise costs for certain items in the US? Absolutely. But if the US working class is getting higher wages, they can afford those increased costs. The people who would end up paying for the tariffs are
        1. The Chinese
        2. The US non-working class who don’t have the higher wages, and tend to work in higher paying fields.

        1. When has your tariff fantasy ever worked out in practice? Tariffs only hurt the nation instituting the tariff.

  11. This post demonstrates stunning hypocrisy, coming as it does from someone whose university hosts a Confucius Institute. If Ilya Somin had any integrity (ha!) he would resign from GMU rather than give that kind of aid and support to the Chinese government he claims to oppose. But of course, that would be a sacrifice by Prof. Somin, and it’s so much easier to signal virtue by sacrificing other people’s welfare.

  12. Why does Somin all of a sudden go from individuals matter over their nations/governments (unrestricted immigration) to governments/nations matter over individuals (boycott amateur sporting events held in places with bad governments)?

    1. It’s worse than that. Somin isn’t simply calling on individual athletes to boycott the Chinese games, which he is of course free to do. (I doubt that they will listen, given his flagrant hypocrisy, but he can try.) He is calling on governments (the “boycotting states”) to prevent their athletes from participating in the games, apparently on the theory that every American citizen is in fact a puppet of his or government and subject to its control at all times. And that, children, is Volokh Conspiracy libertarianism!

      1. y81,
        Foreign policy is the prerogative of the central governments; it is not the right of jocks.

        1. What? Next you’ll be telling me that central government have the prerogative right to control immigration.

          1. “Whataboutism,” pure and simple. Read the damned law, y81.
            And yes, the central government has the authority and power to control immigration if it has the cojones.

            1. No no no. Prof. Somin says that governments have no right at all to control immigration. Typical hypocrisy, from you and him: libertarian when the government does something you don’t like, then turn and urge the government to exercise power when you think you might like the result.

    2. On the one hand, the athletes aren’t there representing themselves, but the US government. So it’s hardly just individuals. (It’s the fact that it represents the US that makes our attendance problematic).

      On the other hand, individuals are definitely being harmed. Literally millions of Uighur, all of whom are individuals.

      1. Can you tell me how many Uighurs will die if we boycott and compare this number to how many will die if we don’t? If you don’t know even that, you have no excuse to invoke “individuals”.

        1. Ken,
          You give us a bit of nonsense propaganda, but insisting on a condition with no logical connection.
          Maybe you’re just a dupe of Beijing rather than a knowing operative.
          Better luck next time.

      2. On the one hand, the athletes aren’t there representing themselves, but the US government.

        Yikes! Do they know that? And since when? What is your source?

        1. I’m sure they do, since they have to go as part of the US team, and they compete for the US. They can’t just show up by themselves.

          That you haven’t realized what a patriotic (for all countries involved) dog-and-pony show the Olympics is beggars belief – and while that kind of idiocy certainly isn’t impossible on the internet, i charitably choose to imagine you’re only playing dumb.

          If it was just about athletic ability, there wouldn’t be national teams at all. The best athletes in each field (based on qualification) would show up as individuals and compete for themselves, with no mention of what country they were from.

          1. Right. And they would play Michael Phelps favorite song when he won a race, rather than the SSB.

  13. Professor Somin should take some time to understand the Uyghur / Hong Kong issues from more reliable sources. I.e., those that offer something beyond the juvenile atrocity propaganda linked and regurgitated here.

    Somin advocates boycotting “repressive regimes,” so they are not “used as propaganda tools.” This would ostensibly amount to some sort of victory for human rights, and “impose a price” on China for its bad “behavior” (the arrogance of such paternalistic language is unfortunately not lost on them).

    In reality, such a stance would simply reinforce the notion that America is no longer fit to dominate the international stage. Foregoing a chance to celebrate our shared humanity with 1/5th of the planet, so we can play tea time with our stuffed animals and tut-tut about propaganda and concentration camps, would be an act of great shame. Why deepen the rift between the two nations? There is no moral high ground to cling to for a nation unable to recognize its own hypocrisy. Nothing to be gained.

    Even the (absurdly hyperbolic and unrealistic) Western estimates regarding Uyghurs in detention centers pail in comparison to the number of citizens we currently have incarcerated. Nor do our disastrous exploits across the Muslim world lend us the credibility to act as moral police. Is there any remaining threshold or standard that could classify China as a “repressive regime,” but not the U.S.? (After all, China’s attempts to re-educate Uyghur separatists were inspired not by the Holocaust, but by America’s federal programs to assimilate the Native populations.)

    Taken with the black banner, I’d almost thought I’d wandered into the Darkness in which Democracy Dies… I thought most libertarians had disabused themselves of this mode of thinking.

    1. Even the (absurdly hyperbolic and unrealistic) Western estimates regarding Uyghurs in detention centers pail in comparison to the number of citizens we currently have incarcerated.

      Seriously, who pays you?

      Nor do our disastrous exploits across the Muslim world lend us the credibility to act as moral police.

      Seriously, who pays you?

      Is there any remaining threshold or standard that could classify China as a “repressive regime,” but not the U.S.?

      Seriously, how much time do you have?

      A boycott is a stupid idea, but you sir are an idiot.

      1. Political disputes with tankies are a waste of time. Don’t bother.

    2. Ham,
      you’re post advocates moral bankruptcy and concession to the world primary aspiring hegemon. Start teaching your family Mandarin.

      1. I’m not convinced that Ham needs to teach his children Mandarin; at this point, I suspect he already does, and the only question that remains is “how did he learn English so well?”.

        1. In China, they start learning English in ~1st grade. So that’s no mystery.

    3. “Even the (absurdly hyperbolic and unrealistic) Western estimates regarding Uyghurs in detention centers”
      BTW Ham-bone, those numbers are very easily determined from satellite photography.

  14. It is pathetic how many of the commenters prefer to cave to Beijing.

    1. Look, these issues are complicated. Despite the fact that I think Dilan is very wrong, it’s not obvious what the optimal approach is. It is not “caving to” Beijing to show up.

  15. I don’t think we should boycott, but this olympics presents an opportunity for massive CCP propaganda while they are already crowing about their “old friend” Biden. Of course, such efforts would obtain no currency if U.S. media were not eager to aid it along.