Chinese citizens walk past a sign for the Beijing Winter Olympics in Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province, China.
Lintao Zhang | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – The State Department on Tuesday evening denied considering a joint boycott with allies of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
“Our position on the 2022 Olympics has not changed. We have not discussed or discussed a joint boycott with allies and partners,” a senior State Department official wrote in a statement emailed to CNBC.
Department spokesman Ned Price had originally suggested during a press conference earlier Tuesday that a boycott of the Olympics was one of the ways to address China’s human rights abuses.
The Olympic Games will take place between February 4th and 20th.
Any discussion of a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics would come when the Biden government works to rally allies to push China back internationally. While there is broad support from both parties for a tougher political stance on China, there is little consensus that a boycott would be the most productive route.
Continue reading: Calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics are getting louder – and analysts are warning of retaliation from China
A former senior tax officer, who asked anonymity to describe previous considerations on the matter, suggested that such a move would reflect a “Cold War Declaration” on behalf of the United States.
“It’s better to go there and dominate,” the official told CNBC. “It’s better to be Jesse Owens than the 1984 Soviets.” (Owens, a black American sprinter, won four gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Nazi Berlin in 1936. The Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Games after the US rejected the 1980 Moscow Games in protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan .)
Last month, the United States sanctioned two Chinese officials citing their role in serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. The Biden government’s sanctions complement those of the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada.
Beijing has previously denied US allegations that it committed genocide against the Uyghurs, a Muslim population based in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The State Department called such claims “malicious lies” to “smear China” and “thwart China’s development.”
The sanctions followed a controversial meeting between Foreign Minister Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomats Yang Jiechi and State Councilor Wang Yi in Alaska.
Before the Alaska talks, Blinken slammed China’s widespread use of “coercion and aggression” on the international stage, warning that the US would push back if necessary.
“China is using coercion and aggression to systematically undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy, undermine democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law,” said Flashing at a press conference in Japan.
Biden, who spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping in February, previously said his approach to China would differ from that of his predecessor in that he would work more closely with allies to secure a knockback against Beijing.
“We will face China’s economic abuse,” said Biden in a speech at the State Department, describing Beijing as America’s “most serious competitor.”
“But we are also ready to work with Beijing if it is in the US interest. We will compete from a position of strength by improving at home and working with our allies and partners.”
Tensions between Beijing and Washington increased under the Trump administration, escalating a trade war and helping to ban Chinese tech companies from doing business in the United States.
Over the past four years, the Trump administration blamed China for a variety of abuses, including intellectual property theft, unfair trade practices and, most recently, the coronavirus pandemic.