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Did you ever hear about “quiet diplomacy?”
Maybe not. After all, it’s supposed to be quiet. Also, it doesn’t work, at least not as intended.
It supposedly works when countries, facing heavy pressure, change their policies without having to make embarrassing public concessions. It fails when those applying the pressure get nothing for concessions they make to encourage a quiet deal.
The International Olympic Committee has acquired the reputation of being a historic failure in using quiet diplomacy. It has just failed again with China, which is about to host the 2022 Winter Games.
Its first classic failure was the 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin under Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. The choice of Berlin may have been made in the hope that Germany would drop its antisemitic policies. Germany obliged by covering its objectionable public signage for a couple of weeks. But American Jewish athletes were kept from competing.
The Olympics gave Nazi Germany the appearance of being an honorable member of the international community. With these credentials, it carried out the Holocaust, the attempt to kill all European Jews, and the massacre of millions of Russians and Poles.
The committee’s quiet diplomacy was carried out with little conviction. It almost certainly knew it was legitimizing Hitler, which helped pave the way for Nazi genocide. Genocide occurs when a government tries to end the existence of a group of people simply because of their membership in that group.
The committee was not alone. Money meant more than principle for some U.S. companies. IBM sold Hitler equipment to identify Jews in the population. During World War II, Coca-Cola stayed in business there and created a new German wartime brand called Fanta. Ford Motors also remained.
After World War II, the United Nations was created to foster worldwide cooperation aimed at preventing any new genocidal regime, like the Nazis. In 1948, United Nations members adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Though not a binding law, it was an agreed standard of national behavior.
The declaration recognized that genocide was a crime against humanity. Even if it took place within the borders of a single country, the world community would have a legitimate interest in fighting it.
In 2008, the Olympic committee sponsored the summer Olympic Games in China. As a result, that country gained in prestige, shifting the world’s focus from its human rights violations to its lavish athletic show. It made sure it could win the most gold medals. At the same time, its control extended to foreign journalists covering the events.
Once again, instead of influencing the host country, the committee was used. It is almost entirely financed by the proceeds of the games, so it was enriched by the glittering show.
In 2014, Russia, with a history of oppressing minorities, hosted the Winter Games. Like China, it won the most gold medals. Then, it was found that many Russian athletes had doped their way to winning. Unchecked, Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2015.
Now, the committee has again made China the games’ host, hopeful of big profits from its choice. But, to do so, it must ignore China’s genocide, the attempt to wipe out its Muslim minority by imprisonment, abortion, sterilization and “reeducation.” Meanwhile, there’s little doubt China will again win the most golds.
The committee no longer claims that it is pursuing quiet diplomacy. Its chair merely asserts that as an international body, it must be politically neutral. To repair the self-inflicted damage and possibly to save itself, it awarded the upcoming games, without competitive bidding, to France, the U.S. and Australia.
China is ramping up aggressive moves to become the dominant world power. It builds illegal military bases on false islands in the open ocean, ends democracy in Hong Kong and threatens Taiwan. Echoes of Berlin. But the games must go on.
The American consumer has unknowingly supported its genocide. The U.S. market may have become overly dependent on China. But last month, Congress and the president banned imports from the region where repression is taking place. The bill was strongly opposed by some American companies. Including Coca-Cola.
“Many companies have already taken steps to clean up their supply chains,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, an author of the bill. “For those who have not done that, they’ll no longer be able to continue to make Americans — every one of us, frankly — unwitting accomplices in the atrocities, in the genocide that’s being committed by the Chinese Communist Party.”
President Joe Biden has barred U.S. officials from attending the games. Chinese officials say that violates the Olympic spirit and they are right. It violates the Olympic committee’s false neutrality.
China also claims its genocide is its internal affair. The world has heard that one before.