The Biden administration is expected to announce a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics this week, according to multiple reports, meaning that no United States government officials would attend the Games in February.
The measure would not prevent Team USA athletes from attending or competing in the Olympics, as a full boycott is not expected. The last time the U.S. fully boycotted the Olympics was in 1980.
The move, however, could lead to the first mass Olympic boycott since the Cold War. In addition to the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia have said they are also considering a boycott.
Those who support the boycott say that China is using the Olympics as a way to gloss over its poor record on human rights, most notably its treatment of civil rights activists, political dissidents and ethnic minorities.
A virtual summit in November between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping included discussion about human rights, Chinese aggression toward Taiwan and trade issues but did not lead to significant progress.
On Monday, China responded to the reports, warning of “firm countermeasures” if the U.S. proceeds.
“Without being invited, American politicians keep hyping the so-called diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympic, which is purely wishful thinking and grandstanding,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing.
“The U.S. should stop politicizing sports and hyping up the so-called ‘diplomatic boycott’ so as not to affect China-U.S. dialogue and cooperation in important areas,” he continued, calling the boycott “a stain on the spirit of the Olympic charter.”
High-level politicians from the U.S. and other countries have long attended the Olympics in support of their athletes. First Lady Jill Biden attended the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff led a delegation to the Paralympics.
The boycott would be another major stand taken against China in recent weeks. Last Wednesday, the WTA announced it was suspending all tournament play in the country over concerns about Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who went missing for weeks after accusing a former government official of sexual assault.