Western elites embarrass themselves by attacking naturalized Chinese athletes
Published: Feb 07, 2022 08:06 PM
Gu Ailing Photo: VCG

Gu Ailing Photo: VCG

Team China's 18-year-old US-born freestyle skier Gu Ailing, also known as Eileen Gu, was, again, bashed by US media.

Fox News host Will Cain on Wednesday called Gu out as an "ungrateful" traitor. Cain argued that it is "shameful" for the young athlete to turn her back on the US, the country that allegedly raised and turned her into a world-class skier, in exchange for money. 

This is not the first time some voices in the West are taking aim at naturalized Chinese athletes. China's first naturalized track and field athlete, Nina Schultz, known as Zheng Ninali in China, decided to give up her Canadian citizenship in 2018. However, the young lady, who is of Chinese descent, was criticized by some in Canada for her supposed indifference to "human rights violations" in China.

Besides, according to many Western media outlets, naturalized Chinese figure skater Zhu Yi was "savaged" by Chinese netizens after she fumbled her 2022 Winter Olympics debut on Sunday. Some have indeed attacked Zhu online, questioning her qualification and capability. But targeting young individual athletes and attacking them on social media is going too far. Instead, we should be more empathetic and supportive toward them. 

Many athletes dream of standing on the world stage to compete with the world's best sportsmen and women. Yet, few have this opportunity. If representing another country allows them to realize their dreams, then there is nothing wrong with some athletes choosing the path of naturalization. Alex Hua Tian, a naturalized Chinese equestrian, once informed UK media China has given him "the opportunities that riding for Team GB would never have done."

On the other hand, since naturalized athletes are often in the spotlight, they can use such attention to promote their sport, especially in smaller, lesser known sports. Gu Ailing and Alex Hua Tian, for example, have made many Chinese people know more about freestyle skiing and eventing.

There are many naturalized athletes in the US, but it seems that US media never fusses about them. According to Shen Yi, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, it is no surprise that the US displays such a double standard.

"In fact, it is not even appropriate to call it a 'double standard' in a sense," Shen argues. For some Western forces, there is only one standard: Everything must revolve around the West, and only the West can win. Nobody should tread on this "golden rule." This is abundantly clear under the single standard of extreme self-centeredness just how increasingly narrow-minded the West has become. 

Such hypocrisy can also be exemplified by how some Western media treated Gu Ailing and Zhu Yi differently. Just as a Twitter user wrote Monday, "Funny to see Americans are crying for Zhu Yi while bullying Eileen Gu. Textbook hypocrisy." This actually implies that some in the West don't really care about the athletes themselves as much as they try to sound. They probably just use them as an excuse to criticize China.

The US has grown to be a global power by attracting global talent. Now Washington criticizes those who choose Beijing over it, displaying American elites' calculated snobbery.

Similar to Gu, some Chinese athletes born in foreign countries also decided to obtain Chinese citizenship to compete for their motherland in this Winter Olympics for various reasons. This includes the above-mentioned US-born figure skater Zhu Yi (Beverly Zhu) and Canadian-born ice hockey player Ye Jinguang (Brandon Yip). This "reverse migration" in the field of sports marks a new era and perhaps, a sign of something new.

In the future, more foreign athletes will likely choose to compete for China. Some Western media outlets that constantly lampoon China's naturalized athletes only prove their "sour grapes" mentality. To those media, we would like to respond with what Gu said to one of her haters on TikTok: "Cry ab it [Cry about it]."

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.