Beijing didn’t exactly mince words when Australia, citing China’s human rights record, decided to follow the United States’ lead in not sending high-level officials to next month’s Winter Olympic Games. “No one would care whether they come or not,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin recently told reporters at a press briefing. “The Winter Olympic Games is not a stage for political posturing.”
Such blunt language from the host nation is not surprising given how far China has come since it last hosted the Olympics in summer 2008, says Xuechen Chen, a professor of politics and international relations at NCH at Northeastern in London. Back then, China wanted to be recognized as one of the most important players in the world, Chen says. But now, with the eyes of the sporting world focused on the buildup to the Feb. 4-20 Winter Games, China no longer seeks nor needs external recognition to prove that it is a great power, says Chen. “That partly explains Beijing’s reaction [to the diplomatic boycott] was essentially, ‘We don’t really care and it’s not a big problem for us,’” she says.