When it comes to politics in the Western world, there appears to be two rules: What I say, and what I do. Although officials from the UK, Canada, the US and elsewhere consistently talk about cooperation and collaboration in achieving a mutual goal, actions don’t often follow that path.
Whether in the coronavirus pandemic or climate change, the urgent need for international collaboration has never been clearer. When countries join forces to combat a mutual threat or problem, they can achieve significant results. But when they squabble, or choose petty fights, there are no winners, only losers.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped many politicians in the West from blaming China, whether for the coronavirus pandemic or global climate change.
And now, a growing chorus of elected officials in a number of Western countries have once again targeted China, this time with the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, scheduled to take place in Beijing.
In Canada, for instance, 13 members of Parliament have signed an open letter demanding that the International Olympic Committee move the 2022 games out of China, in protest of China’s governance of its Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
In the UK, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Ed Davey and Labour MP Chris Bryant echoed that position, and last week called for British athletes to boycott next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing.
And in the US, although the White House so far said that it has no plans to boycott the 2022 Olympics, a group of Republican senators has spoken out about trying to relocate the games.
Although all these moves seem unlikely to succeed, they are nevertheless worrying, not because of the Olympic Games, but what these public manoeuvres represent. Despite a catastrophic public health crisis and a looming global climate change issue highlighting the need for global cooperation, a small but significant group of Western politicians seem more intent on harming China – or at least, the public perception of China – than actually making any concrete difference in the world.
But in fact, the reality is even worse. These political voices are doing worse than nothing; they are actively harming a trans-Pacific partnership which could be productive for all people, in China and the rest of the world alike.
If these elected officials in the US, Canada or the UK truly had questions or concerns about China’s internal policies, there are methods in place to pose questions: through diplomatic channels such as embassies and consulates.
But then again, taking that route may invalidate these politicians’ preconceived notions about what is truly taking place in Xinjiang; so instead, they take a counter-productive public stance instead.
By taking this ill-informed stance rather than finding out the truth, they are hindering international cooperation at a critical juncture, increasing distrust and convincing 1.4 billion Chinese citizens that the truth doesn’t matter, as long as China is the target. These politicians are unfortunately little more than virtue signallers: showing the world how righteous they are, but without doing anything positive.
But perhaps the most dangerous element of these public statements to move the 2022 Winter Olympic Games out of China is the message it sends to China: That whoever doesn’t like China’s government policies will ultimately hold all Chinese citizens accountable as a result.
That is more than a disagreement over a government decision; it is tantamount to discrimination against the world’s most populous country, and a statement to one-fifth of humanity that they are being collectively punished by Western powers.
Therein lies the biggest danger of these political “virtue signallers;” the issue is not about the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, it is about the fear of a rising China, and the willingness to punish 1.4 billion people because of that fear.
Unfortunately, history has shown that wise decisions are rarely made out of fear. As such, it is incumbent upon the governments of Canada, the UK and the US – and any other country with a small group of loud voices clamouring for a boycott of China hosting the 2022 Winter Olympic Games – to not let self-serving politics get in the way of global collaboration. China will continue to survive and thrive, regardless of where next year’s Winter Olympics are held; but by rejecting one-fifth of humanity for political posturing, the Western world would be harming itself immeasurably.
The author writes about relations between China & the West. Global Times