Skip to main content Skip to navigation

US diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics an "important symbol": Prof Shaun Breslin

The USA is planning a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, due to concerns over human rights violations in China. Australia's government has now announced it will join the boycott.

Professor Shaun Breslin, a leading expert on Chinese politics from the Department of Politics and International Studies, offers his view on the story:

Prof Shaun Breslin

"This is not a boycott of the games in the way the US (plus others) and the Soviet Union boycotted each others' games in 1980 and 1984 by not sending participants. It is just a diplomatic boycott – no US (and now Australian) officials will attend. So it won't affect the actual games themselves. Perhaps we can think of it as a 'boycott lite'. It's about sending a signal – or actually two signals. One to China, and another one to those domestic audiences who want a harder line on China. It is symbolic, but symbols are important.

"It is both a result of existing tensions, and likely to be a cause of further and future ones as well. We have already heard Chinese foreign ministry representatives talking about unspecified 'countermeasures' and it is likely to result in a further round of tit-for-tat accusations and finger pointing. Note that Biden’s 'Summit for Democracy' starts today, which Taiwan has been invited to, but China has not. I don't think the timing is simply coincidental.

"Australia has already joined the boycott. There will be strong pressure in countries like the UK and Japan to do the same. The Uyghur tribunal will announce its verdict on genocide tomorrow. If it says what we expect it to say, there is going to be even more pressure on the UK government to do something."

8 December 2021

For interviews and further quotes, contact:

Luke Walton, International Press Manager

+44 (0) 7823 362 150