The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics wrapped up last Sunday, but not without significant controversy regarding the human rights record of its host country, China. Members of both the political left and right in America fell somewhere on a spectrum between uncomfortable and outraged at the idea of coming to the table of a country that, according to Human Rights Watch and the Borgen Project, oppresses their Uyghur Muslim population, restricts their citizens’ right to freedom of speech and religion, and prosecutes political dissidents.
In a protest against what White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki calls China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity,” the Biden Administration declined to send a diplomatic delegation to attend the games in Beijing.
On a similar note on the other end of the political spectrum, former Trump White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany criticized NBC’s coverage of what she called “the genocide games,” and urged listeners of her Fox News program not to tune into the events.
Evidently, there is an understandable level of animosity between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. Americans have rightly recognized, in the past several years, that China is a rising global power, threatening the military and cultural hegemony that the United States has held over the world since the end of the Cold War in the 1990s. They look at China and see a Communist Dictatorship, a totalitarian autocracy that threatens the liberal values of democracy, equality, and free enterprise that the United States has upheld for so long as a morally righteous and successful manner of putting together a civilization.
What, then, is the best way for a country like America to counter the influence of a rising power like China? Is it to impotently complain on television, to come up with cutesy alliterative phrases like “genocide games”, to give a slap on the wrist in the form of refusing to send a diplomatic delegation, or is it something else? What would a strong, ascendant America in its prime have done?
Consider. In 1936, when America was still a rising world power, the genocidal Nazi regime under Hitler hosted their own Olympic games in Berlin. Instead of sloganeering or hitting Germany with a useless boycott, African-American Jesse Owens went to Hitler’s doorstep, took home four metals and proved Nazi theories about Aryan supremacy wrong. Today in 2022, America fell behind Germany, Norway, and China in gold metals.
From the late 1800s to the 1970s, America was constantly setting records. Most of the world’s tallest buildings could be found in American cities. Now, America barely cracks the top ten. Half of the ten tallest buildings today reside in China. Six of the ten longest bridges in the world are in China. One is in America.
In Amerca’s Century, the 20th Century, America was the home of the telephone, the modern computer, the mass production of cars and the nuclear bomb along with hundreds of other inventions- very often proudly displayed at World’s Fairs held in cities with names like Chicago and Philedelphia. These facts may read as depressing, but they offer a sober look at who we have become. What has America built, done or won in the past 20 years beyond the iPhone?
China seeks to “…become the leading country in the world – the country that sets the norms, that sets the standards,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping last year. What is stopping them?
America used to combat evil by bringing excellence to the table. Now it greets adversaries and dictatorships with meek rhetoric. We need to get back to what made us great in the first place. Our country still has the potential.