The Washington Post's Josh Rogin has cited multiple US administration officials who say President Biden will soon announce a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics - which coming off the "respectful" and "candid" Monday night virtual summit with China's Xi Jinping will prove a hugely symbolic affront sure to again evoke fury from Beijing.
According to Rogin, and with the Beijing Games just three months away, the announcement will come "sooner rather than later," which will involve a declaration that "neither President Biden nor any other US government officials will attend the Beijing Games." Rogin underscores that "This diplomatic boycott is intended, the sources say, as a way to respond to the Chinese government’s human rights abuses without impacting U.S. athletes."
So essentially the move stops far short of any real or total US boycott of the games, instead US leaders - including Congressional members - will be barred by Washington from attending, while the US will be fully represented in terms of athletes competing with no hindrance.
However, The Washington Post cautions that a final decision has yet to ultimately be made: "Although the administration technically has not finalized this decision, a formal recommendation has been made to the president and he is expected to approve it before the end of the month, administration sources confirmed."
It's further possible that the generally positive and open communication on display during the Biden-Xi meeting could cause Biden to have second thoughts. During the high-stakes meeting Biden had called for "common-sense guardrails to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict and to keep lines of communication open." And at the same time Xi, who at one point referred to Biden as "an old friend" urged that, "We must insist on mutual benefit, do not play zero-sum games, and do not engage you to lose and I win."
But Biden pressed Xi on human rights, and this is where the US administration hopes to use the Olympics hosted in Beijing to draw global attention and scrutiny to issues such as the Hong Kong crackdown, the imprisonment of minority Uighurs, and stepped military drills and ratcheting threats aimed at Taiwan reunification. "President Biden raised concerns about the [People’s Republic of China’s] practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, as well as human rights more broadly,” the White House readout of the Xi summit said.
Meanwhile, the WaPo highlights that Biden would likely have bipartisan support for such a diplomatic boycott:
In a May hearing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics as a way to express international concern about China’s human rights abuses without punishing U.S. athletes.
"In authoritarian states, the Olympics has more often been a tool of propaganda than a lever of reform," Romney wrote.
Pundits and Congressional hawks have recently urged such largely symbolic political boycotts on international sporting events hosted by Russia as well...
This is what I proposed for Putin's Sochi Winter Games. Don't punish athletes for the crimes of regimes and sports federations. But don't let dictatorships use these events to whitewash and propagandize. https://t.co/k7QEeo0org— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) November 16, 2021
But the reality remains that if Biden pulls the trigger on this it will immediately negate any 'good will' or positive momentum gained during the Monday summit, ensuring a continued tit-for-tat between the two largest economies and militaries on the world stage.