Olympics are an inflection point for U.S. waning reputation
Bradley Blankenship
The Olympic rings are seen inside the stadium during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at the National Stadium in Beijing, China, February 4, 2022. /CFP

The Olympic rings are seen inside the stadium during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at the National Stadium in Beijing, China, February 4, 2022. /CFP

Editor's note: Bradley Blankenship is a Prague-based American journalist, political analyst and freelance reporter. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

If the 2008 Being Summer Games were China's "coming-out party" to introduce itself on a large stage to the rest of the world, then the 2022 Beijing Winter Games represent something of a "coming-in party." China had just been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) for less than seven years in summer 2008, but now it is the engine of the global economic recovery and undoubtedly an innovation center.

Though the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made the fanfare of the Olympics difficult, it's clear now that the China of today is a cultural center and likely to be an increasingly cosmopolitan environment in the future. Coverage of the Olympics this year in the Chinese media has been hopeful and reflects China's aspirations to be a global center for ideas.

On the other hand, every single American outlet I've seen is divisive. Media outlets in the United States have, as part of a common talking point, added an asterisk to the Olympics this year by noting the "diplomatic boycott" by "several countries," which is really just a handful of countries led by the U.S.

They are also churning out bizarre headlines about the Olympics, such as the fact that frontline workers in the closed-loop bubble are wearing full PPE and this is apparently "dystopian" (as opposed to thousands of people dying every day in their own country), or politicizing the fact that one of the torch bearers this year was Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a Chinese Uygur cross-country skier.

This division is not just unfolding in the American media, however. Almost as a direct rebuttal to the unifying spirit of the Olympics, the U.S. House of Representatives on February 4 passed its China-focused "America COMPETES Act" that, as I explained in a recent piece, will be a complete disaster for the American economy if passed.

While this bill was passed by Democrats along partisan lines, the Republican Party is also just as engorged by anti-China hysteria. Perhaps there's no better illustration than the Promoting Animal Naturalization and Democracy Act (PANDA) introduced by Congresswoman Nancy Mace on February 2.

In short, the bill, which was made separate from the COMPETES Act, would keep American-born panda bears from being returned to "China where it hurts" and "[g]ive freedom to the pandas." Even though the popular satire site, The Onion, literally published an article last year about this, it's not satire even if it sounds ridiculous.

A Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games logo on a street in Beijing, China, December 11, 2021. /CFP

A Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games logo on a street in Beijing, China, December 11, 2021. /CFP

There have certainly been a lot of online users who have been quick to call out these cartoonish attacks against China, but these actions do have real-world consequences. Just like the COMPETES Act will undoubtedly have deleterious effects on the American economy, the hysterical attacks against China will only serve to make the United States lose international prestige.

I recall a conversation I had several months ago with a Chinese colleague, an experienced journalist who had previously lived several years in the U.S. and has a son studying there right now. According to my colleague, things have reached the point where, if they had to make the decision now, they probably wouldn't send their son to the U.S. to study again.

Moreover, they said that America was shooting itself in the foot with its behavior toward China since being receptive to the rest of the world was one of America's greatest strengths and something that it made such a great place. This anecdote, of course, is not isolated and is part of a statistical trend that is worrying high-level U.S. officials to the point of being deemed a national security threat.

As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found, according to data from 2015-2020 on net inflows of internationally-mobile publishing scientists, China became a net recipient of scientific authors in that time and now leads the world.

One glance at this graph shows America's waning attraction for publishing scientists. This is probably due to many factors, including surging anti-Asian hate crimes, the ongoing pandemic, political stability and unfairly singling out of Chinese people in academia through things like the "China Initiative."

However, each of these things is intertwined. When you have a political climate that is so toxic and lacking in intellectual rigor that one of the two political parties adopts sweeping anti-China legislation while the other wants to politicize pandas, the principle of "we hate the government and not the people" gets blurred.

It basically creates an environment where racism can be masqueraded as social justice, and naturally, people on the outside don't want to partake. That is exactly what's happening with these ridiculous attacks on China and that's exactly why many decent, thoughtful people around the world are losing respect for the U.S. and placing that respect rightfully in China.

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