Fewsmith and Shifrinson Comment on U.S. Boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Joseph Fewsmith, Professor of International Relations at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, and Joshua Shifrinson, Associate Professor of International Relations at the Pardee School, were interviewed by BU Today on the United States’ diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

In a featured Q&A titled “Is the US Diplomatic Boycott of Beijing Olympics over Human Rights Abuses Wise?,” Fewsmith and Shifrinson weigh in on the U.S. boycott and condemnation of China’s human rights abuses against the Uyghurs and other Muslims in the Xinjiang region, which has been described as “the largest mass incarceration of an ethnic group since the Holocaust.” The two offer insights on the justification for the boycott, how it might impact China’s human rights policies, and what more can be done to assist the victims of China’s abuses.

An excerpt:

Should the United States consider a total boycott and not allow its athletes to compete in the Olympic Games?

Shifrinson: No, I do not think a total boycott is warranted…the United States has participated in such Olympics as the 1936 Olympics, held in Germany, and the 2014 Sochi games. Pulling all participation would thus be a way of saying that the United States considers China more egregious than Nazi Germany—this may be the case, but it’d be a major and public move that the United States might have a hard time walking back, and [might] limit US options if the situation in China worsens. Pulling diplomatic representation while letting the games continue strikes me as in keeping with the spirit of the event and an option that leaves the United States maneuvering room for dealing with China going forward.

Fewsmith: I do not think a total boycott would accomplish anything. But in the wake of the Peng Shuai case, I could imagine some athletes boycotting or protesting in some fashion.

The full Q&A can be read on BU Today‘s website.

Joseph Fewsmith is Professor of International Relations at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University  He is the author or editor of eight books, including, most recently, Rethinking Chinese Politics (June 2021). He is an associate of the John King Fairbank Center for East Asian Studies at Harvard University and the Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future at Boston University. Read more about Professor Fewsmith on his faculty profile.

Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson is an Associate Professor at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, where his teaching and research interests focus on the intersection of international security and diplomatic history, particularly the rise and fall of great powers and the origins of grand strategy. His work has appeared with International Security, the Journal of Strategic StudiesForeign Affairs, and other venues.  Read more about Professor Shifrinson on his faculty profile.