Great spirit of athletes, without US diplomats
‘Diplomatic boycott’ against Beijing Winter Olympics a cowardly show of US diplomats
Published: Feb 14, 2022 10:24 PM
Thomas Weir Pauken II and his wife at the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Photo: Courtesy of Pauken II

Thomas Weir Pauken II and his wife at the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Photo: Courtesy of Pauken II

Editor's Note:

Despite the West's, especially the US' smears, the Beijing Winter Olympic Games are being delivered in a magnificent way, surprising the world's audiences and athletes who were deceived by the slanderous propaganda campaign against Beijing 2022. Thomas Weir Pauken II (Pauken II), author of US vs China: From Trade Wars to Reciprocal Deal, and Beijing-based commentator on Asia-Pacific affairs, was invited to the opening ceremony on February 4 in Beijing. As an American who has lived in China for 11 years, he shared with the Global Times (GT) his feelings from being present at the ceremony and what he thinks about the West's political campaign against China.

GT: As an American who has lived in Beijing for 11 years, how did you feel being a guest at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games? What do you think of China's confidence and ease during the opening ceremony?

Pauken II: It was a very exciting opportunity and it was a once-in-a-lifetime event to attend something like the opening ceremonies, whether it's going to be in China or the US or anywhere else in the world. This is a very special event. So I was very much excited. There was something I will never forget. And I know that when I'm 50 years older or 40 years older, and I have grandchildren, I'll be telling them about going to the opening ceremony at the Beijing Winter Olympics. It had a really deep impact on my life. And my wife is still talking with our son a lot about what happened that night.

In regard to China's confidence, I've seen it already firsthand. I've lived in China for over 11 years - I came here in October 2010. I have noticed that there is a stronger confidence among most Chinese. I think President Xi Jinping has played a significant role in this cultural confidence, which has been in a positive way.

When I first came, sometimes the Chinese were a little bit reluctant, and they were a little bit nervous around Americans or other Westerners. And now there's this kind of confidence that they see themselves as one of the world superpowers. It's a great country. They have reason to have a lot of pride in their country at this moment.

GT: You posted on Twitter that "US diplomats did not cheer for US athletes. They lacked courage and that was embarrassing." In the mind of many Chinese people, the US is a country where people love sports. It is also a big country of ice and snow sports. What went wrong?

Pauken II: When the US athletes were introduced and asked to walk the field, it was about five other people who stood up to cheer. I anticipated that and I knew I might look a little bit foolish as one of the few people cheering for the US, but I am a US citizen. Although I lived in China for a long time, I have a Chinese wife, and then I have a young son who was born here in China, I'm still proud to be an American. Diplomats are very disappointing because they should have been there like me cheering for the US athletes at the Games. I think it was a cowardly show of dismissal then. It shows Biden as a weak leader. He can't even show up for the Games. So he needed some excuse to stay away. So he just said, "I'll do a diplomatic boycott." There was an active cowardice.

GT: Apparently, America's "diplomatic boycott" doesn't work well. But the White House has confirmed that President Biden will "absolutely" watch the Beijing Olympics. What do you think of such self-contradiction? Do you think politicians like Marco Rubio who publicly oppose the Games will privately enjoy watching the event?

Pauken II: It is a contradiction. As I said, it's a case of sheer cowardice. President Biden still wants to play both sides of things. So he said he's going to still watch it. But actually, that's a contradiction. I had done a YouTube video, asking that very question. What happens if you were a Canadian diplomat and you want to watch the Games on TV? Does that mean you are following the spirit of the "diplomatic boycott"? My answer is you're not. I'm not saying it's illegal or you should lose a job for that, but if you're going to do a boycott, you gotta do it. You can't do it halfway. This contradiction shows it's just pure cowardice. 

GT: Athletes from all over the world are enjoying the Beijing Winter Olympics. But US politicians haven't given up the efforts to politically smear China and the Games. How do you see such a political campaign? 

Pauken II: When I saw the athletes on the field, when I was watching the opening ceremonies and I was in attendance, I was absolutely amazed by the wonderful behavior by the US athletes. They have been abandoned and betrayed by the US diplomats, by their own president. Yet they stayed and they went ahead and went to the Games. And they show a great positive spirit. I saw them dancing to a Chinese audience. I saw a video where one athlete said she was almost crying because she had seen one of the volunteers from China say "Welcome to China!" and he was smiling and made her cry because she had heard all those horror stories from the US government about how terrible China was going to be, and she discovered otherwise.

And that's the same story for me and many people who come to China. We worry about coming to China because we heard all the media stories, but then we discover that China is a really good country and a great place for opportunities. And it's a good place to live and a good place to visit.

So this is exactly what the US athletes are discovering - that the media in the West is lying. They have depicted China as a horrible, terrible country. And then they come here and they discover the exact opposite - that it's a very wonderful country - the same experience I had, and many other Americans have had as well who have chosen to live and work here.

GT: How do you see this political campaign by the US? Where will this campaign take it?

Pauken II: It's the US that lost, obviously. To other countries and national leaders who are coming to meet President Xi, from my understanding, or having good meetings with President Xi, their countries are starting to have really good trade agreements or are signing off on business dealings between China and their respective countries. So a lot of the countries' leaders who are visiting China for the Olympics are benefiting from it, whereas the US made this grand show of "boycott," but how many people really follow?

Let's see: UK, Lithuania, Australia, Japan, not many countries, not many European countries. You would think that the EU would follow the US, but they apparently decided to agree with French President Macron when he said he's not going to do a diplomatic boycott. It looks like the EU is following Macron's lead rather than the US'.

GT: Gu Ailing, also known as Eileen Gu, made history by winning China the first-ever gold medal in Freeski Big Air. However, for a long time, some US media outlets have been using Gu's nationality to make a fuss. Why are those outlets doing that? What is the effect of such narrow-mindedness on American society?

Pauken II: The Americans used to do this stuff all the time to get gold medals. Suddenly it's the coin being flipped. Now the Chinese are doing what the Americans have done a long time ago. What the US used to do is: "Hey, we'll give you this wonderful passport. You just win some gold medals for our team. And you're going to have this fantastic life." The Americans are suddenly all upset when basically the Chinese just follow the US script from a long time ago. The Chinese shouldn't be so sensitive about all the criticisms about Eileen Gu or anything else. Just be yourself, be proud of your country, and just worry more about your present situation rather than what foreigners think about you.

I think it's a little bit harsh to say narrow-minded. I would just say that every media has its own opinion, and they have the right to their own opinions. And I don't worry too much about the criticisms. I'm from America. I'm American. I know all about the media. They always attack. They only care about trying to get people to look at them and get audience numbers and get readers' views. The attack method is a much more appealing way to get numbers. And then I just discovered it right before this interview. I was just reviewing some articles about Eileen Gu, and it turns out that her event where she won the gold medal was one of the highest-rated sporting events in Olympic history. She's brought in a big audience globally. 

GT: Is there anything you'd like to say to Team USA?

Pauken II: I hope they have big-time fun here. I saw them at the opening ceremony and I was very proud of them as an American. They are doing a great job of at least showing good manners, showing respect to the Chinese people, showing respect to their host, although maybe they're not doing as well as I would like. Just keep doing what they are doing. Even if many Americans are not watching the Games, just do your best. We have the courage to be heroes. I think Americans right now we're having a little bit of a hard time. We need something to pick up our spirits.