Despite the diplomatic boycott, American government agencies have stopped questioning the IOC’s apolitical policies, which have benefited the Chinese state and its Olympics. And while diplomacy may be different in Beijing 2022, America’s private sector retains its major hold on business operations.
Diplomatic participation in Ceremonies are an image problem, but corporate engagement has additional and much greater economic implications. The diplomatic-only boycott issue of the 2022 Games perpetuates the fiction that Chinese companies bear sole responsibility and blame for the human rights issues raised by advocates.
In both China and the United States, the major Olympic sponsors hold significant market shares in their respective sectors and remain politically associated with American political leaders. For many, their operations in China remain linked to the Xinjiang region and its political situation, including what the State Department has described as crimes against humanity.
Coca-Cola, which has extensive bottling investments and distribution commitments at its Chinese stores, campaigned against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which named one of its sugar suppliers as allegedly linked to forced labor. Sportswear giant Nike has also denied allegations of forced labor at its textile operations and claim that it has conducted audits at its footwear and apparel supply chain partners.
Technology is even more closely linked to Chinese political ambitions and standards. Tesla operates storefronts in Xinjiang. Airbnb benefits from listings in Xinjiang for Han-majority vacationers while refusing to accommodate Uyghurs and other minorities. When asked about the possibility of US government pressure on companies in Xinjiang, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said no such plans were in the works. He said: “The private sector — and that includes American companies — has a great deal of information about the concerns that the United States has raised, that we’ve raised along with our partners and our allies. And it is up to them to make their own decisions about their practices in relation to what we have said very clearly that Xinjiang is going ahead.” In short, a government position – apart from the disappointment with companies acting as sponsors or Acting as business partners of the games – has yet to be formed.
In these areas, senior investment managers have been talking about decoupling from troubled Chinese politics rather than concrete action. Digital platforms like Amazon often use the guise of US-China competition to fight antitrust hearings while complying with Chinese government calls to end negative reviews of Xi Jinping’s book. Sanctions against Chinese companies have linked Chinese technology developers of hardware and data solutions to law enforcement agencies in Xinjiang, but the bulk of American government action is still limited to not even censoring or restricting the activities of American firms.
Basically access to The Chinese market has become an excuse for companies to avoid taking action. Bragging about innovation and entrepreneurial ingenuity to financial players, these companies pride themselves on their unique strategic acumen while deciding that delivering, maintaining and continuing the business being monitored is acceptable value.
This connection has been forged not only by market interests, but also by corporate work cultures in and around surveillance technology. Xinjiang Crisis researchers who study the companies that build their cameras, databases and surveillance technology find more similarities to American tech firms than differences.
In her book Blockchain Chicken FarmWriter Xiaowei Wang visits the headquarters of the facial recognition company Megvii, which operates Xinjiang’s surveillance systems, and notes the international education and mundane corporate culture of the employees there: “It would have been easy to believe that the company behind China’s Skynet had Soviet-era secrecy …at least then a person, a company, a country could serve as a symbol of sinister surveillance. What I encountered instead was an utterly indifferent frankness combined with the dry, surgical threat of a non-disclosure agreement. It didn’t remind me of Silicon Valley. It was Silicon Valley.”