Will the Beijing Olympics Become a Festival of Despotic Propaganda?

Will the Beijing Olympics Become a Festival of Despotic Propaganda?

Showing the World “The Olympics for the Chinese Communist Party

Article on January 13th 2022, by Kaori Fukushima (After graduating from the Faculty of Literature, Osaka University, she joined the Sankei Shimbun. After studying language at Fudan University in Shanghai, she worked as a correspondent for the Sankei Shimbun in Hong Kong in 2001 and in Beijing from 2002 to 2008. After leaving the Sankei Shimbun in 2009, she became a freelance journalist, focusing mainly on China’s political, economic and social issues. Her major publications include “New Covid, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the World Won’t Forgive Xi Jinping” (Wani Books, 2020), “Xi Jinping’s Defeat: The Crisis in China, the Red Empire” (Wani Books, 2020), “Young People in China’s Despair Factory” (PHP Institute, 2013), and “Undercover Report: Women in China” (Bungeishunju, 2011).


The Beijing Winter Olympics will open in three weeks amidst the spread of a regional outbreak of a new corona, the Omicron strain, in Tianjin, a city directly under China’s jurisdiction adjacent to Beijing.

 On January 4, the authorities imposed a “closed environment control” before the Winter Olympics. According to the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Winter Games, this is the strictest management system for an international event and seems to be a more thorough version of Japan’s “bubble system”. What kind of Beijing Olympics will China hold, sticking to the “zero-covid” policy, when the highly infectious covid variant called Omicron spreading in Tianjin, a city adjacent to Beijing?

 In addition, China has not shown any positive response to the international community regarding the suppression of the Uyghurs and the detention of Hong Kong democracy activists, and many people such as female tennis player Peng Shuai and human rights lawyer Tang Kiden have “disappeared”, and many countries including Japan are diplomatically boycotting the Olympics.

No direct contact with the “outside world” allowed

 China’s management system is an even stricter version of the Tokyo Olympics’ “bubble system. A relatively large enclosed environment is created, isolated from the outside world, and the Olympic staff is locked up in it for a month before the opening of the Games to be “sterilized and disinfected” first. The number of staff, including volunteers, cleaners, cooks, and drivers, is in the thousands. This was called the “closed environment” management process before the opening of the Winter Olympics. Once they enter the closed environment, they are not allowed to have direct contact with the outside world for any reason.

 The closed environment consists of a “large ring” and a number of “small rings,” that is, a number of small closed spaces within a large closed space. The “small rings” are individual places such as the athletes’ village, training facilities, competition venues, and media coverage venues, each of which is a small enclosed environment.

 Athletes, staff, guests, and reporters from abroad can enter these small rings, but they cannot, for example, freely leave the small rings and move around.

Thorough rules as only a tyrannical nation can

 All foreign visitors to the Olympics will be checked for vaccination status at the airport and undergo PCR testing. Those who have not been vaccinated will be transferred by special transportation to an isolation facility, where they will undergo 21 days of high-intensity isolation (i.e., they will not be allowed to leave the hotel), and then transferred by special transportation to the athletes’ village or a hotel contracted by the Olympic organizing committee.

 The area including the athletes’ village, hotels, stadiums, opening and closing ceremonies, food and beverage facilities for Olympic officials, medal awarding ceremonies, media center, etc. is a closed environment in the form of a “great circle. No spectators from abroad are allowed.

 Foreign athletes, coaches, and staff are not allowed to step out of this closed environment until they leave the country again, and are required to undergo daily PCR tests and other necessary examinations, and to wear masks.

 All staff members who come into contact with the athletes during the entry and exit procedures will be required to wear protective gear. Not only will the vehicles used to transport the athletes be special-purpose vehicles, but the roads they will travel on will also be special-purpose roads, and they will be completely separated from the general Chinese population.

 At the Tokyo Olympics, there were athletes and staff who did not abide by the rules set, but it seems that no one would dare to break the rules against the Chinese authorities. It is a tyrannical state that is able to enforce the rules so thoroughly and make people follow them without question.

 On January 10, a person infected with the Omicron strain was confirmed in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, and now at least six cities in China have been confirmed to be infected with the Omicron strain. Moreover, in Tianjin, which is adjacent to Beijing, the infection is spreading in the city, and considering the speed at which the Omicron strain is spreading, we can imagine that the infection is also occurring in Beijing.

 Although the symptoms of the Omicron strain are not mild, they are said to be less severe than those of the Delta strain, making it difficult to distinguish it from a common cold, and it is considered to be highly “hidden. In the case of China, the government has a strict policy of “social cleanliness,” which means that if a person is found to be infected with covid, all of his or her close contacts, including those living in the same apartment building, are thrown into isolation. So even if you think you may have been infected, many people will probably hide it.

 The closed-ring system is based on this situation in Chinese society, and with this method, the possibility of foreign athletes’ health being endangered is probably close to zero.

 However, it also makes us wonder what the purpose of the Olympics is if they are held under such circumstances.

Expectations of a “Reborn China” Betrayed

 I remember the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics well because I was there to cover them. The significance of the Olympics was that it was a kind of “debut” for China in the international community. There were plenty of opportunities for foreign tourists and media to see China’s development, and for ordinary Chinese citizens to interact with foreigners as hosts. The citizens of Beijing carried out a “civilization” movement at the civic level so that they would not be thought of as provincial by the international community, and English and manners training was conducted mainly by Communist Party members in the social districts. Children and grandmothers who used to go to the bathroom on the street, underpasses, or even in the subway trash cans were taught to be patient until they went to a public restroom. We learned that it is not civilized to spit or tan everywhere, that we should line up properly when getting on public transportation, and that we should not sidestep. During the Beijing Summer Olympics, I witnessed a great improvement in the “manners” of not only the citizens of Beijing but also the Chinese people.

 At the same time, foreign countries expected that China’s markets would become more open and liberalized, and that through contact with the international community, China’s values and culture would be influenced and human rights awareness would be improved. 2008-2011 saw an increase in demonstrations and labor disputes demanding the improvement of workers’ rights in China. I believe that the increase in demonstrations and labor disputes for the improvement of workers’ rights in China between 2008 and 2011 may have been due in no small part to the effect of the Olympics.

 In July 2009, a demonstration was held in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. It was a peaceful demonstration for the “legitimate rights” of the citizens, demanding that the Chinese judiciary investigate and judge the truth about the assault and death of Uyghurs at a factory in Guangdong Province. However, for some reason, it was eventually suppressed by the Chinese authorities in the form of the “Urumqi Rebellion,” and it was dressed up as if the East Turkistan independence movement was behind it.

 As a result, the expectation that China would improve its human rights problems and become a civilized country by interacting with the international community has been spectacularly betrayed. I will not go into the causes of this betrayal, as that is another topic.

An Olympics for the Chinese Communist Party

 It is no longer permissible to even have such expectations for the Beijing Winter Olympics. Although it is inevitable because of the covid disaster, there is no way for the Chinese people to have any contact with the international community from the beginning, and it is doubtful that the environment is now such that even Chinese people can freely meet and talk to each other. China’s human rights problems have worsened significantly since 2008, and now there is such a strict surveillance society and thorough control of speech and thought that it is not even easy to admit that human rights problems exist.

 It is unlikely that China’s severe human rights problems will improve with the Beijing Winter Olympics, or that there will be a movement to resolve them as a common understanding at home and abroad.

 Originally, the significance of holding the Olympics as a “festival of peace and sports” was to go beyond conflicts and confrontations, to share universal values such as human rights and freedoms as stated in the Olympic Charter, and to convey these values to the world at large.

 At the Beijing Winter Olympics, athletes may be able to compete safely in a “sterile flask” in complete isolation. However, they will not be able to interact with the real Chinese people, they will not know what kind of human rights problems exist in this country, they will not know what the people in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Tibet Autonomous Region and Hong Kong are suffering from, and they will not know that many Uyghurs, intellectuals and human rights lawyers have been “disappeared”. They also don’t know the situation of the people who were excluded from the “social side” by the zero corona policy in the asylum.

 The spectators may be able to fulfill their purpose of watching the sporting events in the sense that they can watch and cheer for the athletes through the Internet or TV, just as they can admire beautiful insects through a flask. However, it will be impossible to convey the original spirit and significance of the Olympics. If that is the case, what is the purpose of the Olympics?

 There is only one answer. It is the Olympics for the Chinese Communist Party. From the Communist Party’s point of view, the Olympics will probably be an opportunity to show the world the splendor of China’s despotic regime, and its success will be a tailwind for the Party Congress in the fall to decide whether to continue the Xi Jinping dictatorship.

A place to promote the wonders of tyranny

 The opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be produced by Zhang Yimou, a well-known film director, as he did for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang will be in charge of the visual art design, and Sha Xiaoran and Chen Yan, who worked with him on the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics, will again share the lighting and art design duties. There will probably be no last-minute changes in the artistic staff, and the staging, which will make full use of 5G and their signature drone technology, will be breathtaking to many viewers via TV and the Internet, and may be compared to the Tokyo Olympics in many ways.

 Watching the national speed skating pavilion, “Bingshi Belt (Ice Ribbon),” built by the internationally renowned architectural design firm POPULOUS, and the Olympic high-speed railroad connecting the stadiums with the 5G4K broadcasting room on TV, some people may be frankly surprised that so much money was invested in the Olympics while the world is suffering from the economic downturn caused by covid-19.

 And then there are those who think, “Could it be that despotism is at work? Perhaps despotism is better for economic development and managing major national events than democracy, or perhaps despotism is better for controlling viral infections. Some people may begin to think that the tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is a new model of political system that can replace the arrogant democracy of the West as Asian democracy or Chinese style democracy.

 In short, for China, the Olympics are an event to boost its national prestige domestically, while externally it is a propaganda campaign, or brainwashing, to promote the splendor of despotism.

 If more and more people in the world are impressed by the Beijing Winter Olympics, our sense of values may gradually change. If more people in the world are impressed by the “wonderful” Beijing Winter Olympics, our values may gradually change: rather than humanity, human rights, and freedom, it is more important for the whole world to be united and develop in a stable manner, and for this purpose, it is okay to violate human rights and humanity for minorities and people with different opinions.

 At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it was hoped that China’s values and society, touched by the international community, would change to emphasize human rights and humanity. However, for the 2022 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese side is planning to change the values of the international community by demonstrating its success. The people who are most susceptible to this brainwashing may be the people in the Japanese political and business circles who still tend to avoid mentioning the Uyghur issue and China’s human rights problems.

 As for me, I wrote this article to prevent the Olympics from becoming a propaganda of a tyrannical state. Since last year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the ban on athletes giving political performances on the podium has been lifted, but will such freedom be allowed in Beijing Winter Olympics? Will any of them comment on the podium, “May the day come when all Uyghurs can see their families freely” or mention the “disappeared” human rights lawyer, Tang Yoshida in the interview with Chinese media?

 Whether you are looking forward to the Beijing Winter Olympics or have decided not to watch, whether you will participate or not, I hope you will think just a little about how to make the impact of these Olympics as beneficial as possible for human rights, humanity and peace.

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