Uneasy bedfellows? ‘Boycott’ statements show Five Eyes each has its own calculations
Published: Dec 09, 2021 10:18 PM
The Five Eyes Alliance Photo: VCG

The Five Eyes Alliance Photo: VCG

Aside from the headstrong Morrison government which rushed to the frontline to follow the US' "diplomatic boycott" of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, other members of the Five Eyes Alliance, though announcing similar decisions, exposed their different calculations in their wordings.

The different and cunning statements by the US allies showed a certain degree of distrust toward the superpower, and revealed their dilemma in trying to retain their diplomatic independence while being coerced by US to follow suit, Chinese observers pointed out. 

On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "There will be effectively a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. No ministers are expected to attend and no officials." But he noted that "I do not think that sporting boycotts are sensible and that remains the policy of the government," media reported.

Canada followed suit later in the day, also citing human rights concerns.

London, though, showed a basic view of coordination with Washington, and the self-contradictory and vague expression exposed its desire to maintain some degree of independence in their dealings with China, rather than being seen as mere "henchman" of the US, Chinese observers said. 

 "It appears that London does not completely agree with the US' anti-China policy, but it yielded to coercion of US hegemony together with other members of the Five Eyes Alliance," Chen Hong, a professor and director of the Australian Studies Center at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

The staunchest follower of this "boycott" campaign is Australia. Australia announced on Wednesday a "diplomatic boycott" of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

Some media and politicians in Australia are constantly fanning the flames, making their sinister intent clear to agitate world hostility toward China. Canberra is most afraid that the US and the rest of the world would get closer with China because the Morrison government has positioned itself against China and it would be left out if relations between China and the rest of the world improve steadily, Chen explained, noting that Australia fears becoming an "abandoned orphan."

Canada too is very pathetic as it has no option but to bow to US pressure, said Chen, noting that it is very sad that as an independent country, it cannot have its own ideas on foreign policy, but reads the script the US writes for it.

Australia, the UK and Canada cited so-called human rights concerns in China, while another member state of the Five Eyes - New Zealand - used the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for not sending diplomatic representatives at a ministerial level to the Beijing Winter Olympics, noting that the decision was made in October.

The statement by New Zealand was reserved and tactful, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, said. "Using pandemic as an excuse shows New Zealand wants to save some space for relations between China and New Zealand."  

Li said that such nuanced difference between the US "allies" reflected the mistrust of those countries of the US. Once bitten twice shy, those countries' trust has been severely damaged by Trump's selfishness, and they are not sure what the next US administration's policies will be after President Joe Biden steps down. 

In response to the absence of the diplomatic representatives from these countries, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a press conference on Thursday that it's not worth worrying about the ripple effect.

China has not invited any of the countries concerned, and we will see the success of the Games no matter their officials come or not, Wang said.

Thomas Bach, Chief of the International Olympic Committee, dismissed the "diplomatic boycott," saying that "If we were to start to take political sides, we would never get the 205 or 206 National Olympic Committees to the Games - this would be the politicization of the Olympic Games and this would be the end of the Olympic Games," according to media reports on Wednesday.

On Thursday, French Education and Sports Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said that France will not join a diplomatic boycott by other Western countries.

As Japan has not decided whether to join the US' political campaign, Wang Wenbin said that China fully supported Japan in hosting the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, noting that "now it is Japan's turn to show due basic faith."