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Beijing became the first city to host the summer and winter editions of the Olympics. The Games are being held against a backdrop of multiple controversies – a raging pandemic, diplomatic boycotts over China’s human rights record, and the nation’s growing proximity to Russia. Eva Dou, China business and economy reporter for the Washington Post joins.
At the Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, three-time gold medal snowboarder Shaun White, who helped popularize the sport, announced this will be his last Olympics and that he is retiring.
The games this year are taking place against the backdrop of an ongoing pandemic, china's troubling human rights record and the country's strengthening relationship with Russia. The last time china hosted the Olympics was in the summer of 2008, since then its growth on the world stage has evolved.
For more, I spoke with Eva Dou, China Business and Economy Correspondent for the Washington Post.
So Eva, as the opening ceremonies get underway, what does China want to project to the world right now?
Well, I think the striking difference between this opening ceremony and the ones in 2008 is just how much more of a world power China has become since then. Back in 2008, China was still very much a developing nation, opening up to the world. It was trying to project that it was friendly and inviting to everyone. And this time, as you know, there's very strict restrictions for who can come in. Even for those coming in for the Olympics, they won't be able to access the rest of China at all. So this is China saying, you know, we're a world power now and you have to play by our rules.
It's not a coincidence that you had a state visit from Vladimir Putin at the opening ceremonies, while the United States and Russia are in a, at the very least, a diplomatic feud and hopefully not a military one.
Yes, indeed. This has been a meeting that both sides have been anticipating for quite a while. It's been more than two years since President Xi Jinping of China has met other foreign leaders in person, and the first one is Putin, which does show the importance of this relationship to both countries.
Right now, there are so many other issues that are being brought up in the context of China; what's happening to the weaker population, where the origins of COVID are.i How does China deal with those topics in the context of this Olympics?
It's largely not been dealing with those other topics. What China has been saying is that the Olympics should not be politicized, and it's been largely saying that any sort of political issues that are brought up at this time, including, you know, concerns about China's human rights record are quote unquote politicization of that Western countries trying to bring China down are doing at this point.
And where are the relations between the United States and China right now?
You know, they have stabilized somewhat since Joe Biden became president, but they still are quite tense in that, regardless of which party is in power in the U.S., there's this realization that China is a real rival now in the way it wasn't in 2008 with the last Olympics. And when you have a country that is a growing and real rival, then there are all sorts of considerations about their military power, how closely linked their economy is to your economy. And these issues won't go away no matter who is president.
Is there any dissent inside of China about hosting these Olympics now, because usually there are factions in most countries that say, you know what, this is not how we need to be spending money right now or, hey, we're still in a pandemic or has China managed to suppress those voices?
Yeah, China has really tightened its domestic censorship, year on year since quite a while, for more than a decade. And so you've seen very little of that kind of grassroots dissent bubbling to the surface about this.
China Correspondent for The Washington Post, Eva Dou, thanks so much for joining us.
Thanks so much for having me.
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