In response to the White House statement, China’s foreign ministry said it had launched “solemn representation” with the United States and promised to take “resolute countermeasures”.
“Based on ideological bias and based on lies and rumors, the United States is trying to disrupt the Winter Olympics in Beijing. This will only reveal its sinister intentions and further erode its moral authority and credibility,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news conference on Tuesday. .
“The wrong move by the United States has undermined the foundation and atmosphere of China-American sports exchanges and Olympic cooperation. It has shot itself in the foot. The United States should understand the serious consequences of its move,” Zhao said.
Although the meeting did not yield any significant breakthroughs, it did allow for a return to a more constructive, stable relationship after an almost total collapse during the Trump administration’s final year and continued hostility into the Biden administration.
Beijing has no idea what countermeasures are being considered, but the possibility of further retaliation now threatens to derail bilateral relations again.
Compared to the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s angry response, some Chinese diplomats and government media employees have offered a more nonchalant bid on Twitter – which is blocked in China – stressing that US politicians had not yet been invited to the Games.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the nationalist tabloid Global Times, also weighed in.
While Beijing may not be so concerned about the absence of U.S. politicians, it could turn into a major headache if the U.S. move is joined by more countries. In the past, Britain, Canada and Australia have all said they were considering a diplomatic boycott.
Activists have long called for a boycott of the Beijing Games in protest of China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet and its political repression of Hong Kong. Over the past month, Beijing’s silence on Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai’s allegations of sexual assault on a former Chinese leader has further reinforced such calls.
The US diplomatic boycott has been welcomed by rights groups. Human Rights Watch called it a “decisive step towards challenging the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity targeting Uighurs and other Turkish communities.”
“But this should not be the only act. The United States should now redouble its efforts with like-minded governments to investigate and map out ways to hold those responsible for these crimes and justice for the survivors,” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
The potential snowball effect is clear on the minds of some Chinese diplomats. The Chinese mission to the United Nations, for example, has called the US movement a reflection of “its Cold War mentality.”
“The United States just wants to politicize sports, create division and provoke confrontation. This approach will find no support and is doomed to fail. It will only make them more isolated and stand in opposition to the current trend and to the vast majority of countries and people around the world, “said mission spokesman Zhu Zhiqiang in a statement.
Washington’s response to the Beijing Winter Games is in stark contrast to its approach to the Beijing Summer Olympics 13 years ago, in which the Chinese government faced fierce criticism and protests against its repression of Tibet.
In 2008, then-President George W. Bush attended the Olympic opening ceremony and cheered for American athletes during the Games. His father, former President George HW Bush, also participated in the Games as honorary captain of the American team.
CNN’s Allie Malloy, Kate Sullivan and Kaitlan Collins contributed to this report.