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Will the US and other Western countries really boycott the Beijing Olympics?

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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What We’re Watching: US Olympic boycott threat, Myanmar junta delays vote, US resumes aid to Palestinians

Will the US skip the 2022 Olympics? The Biden administration and its allies are reportedly discussing the possibility of a coordinated boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Although the State Department almost immediately tried to walk back its own previous statement, the move would be an act of protest over allegations of China's vast human rights abuses in Xinjiang province. Skipping the games is a big deal, symbolically at least. The last time the US did so was in 1980, when America boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow in response to the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan a year before. But practically speaking, do boycotts have a real effect on anyone besides the athletes who miss a shot at gold? That's a thornier question. Regardless, there are many ways to define "boycott" — the US could — and likely would — do as little as simply keeping its top diplomats from attending. China, for its part, has threatened a "robust response" to any efforts to snub the Beijing games.

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