When is a boycott not a boycott? Everyone would like to know, as the U.S. talks about ‘boycotting’ the Beijing Winter Olympics, but still sending athletes to compete.

What’s been declared is a diplomatic boycott. It should not, according to statements, impact the athletes at all, but the United States will send no officials to the Olympic events, or allow any government employees to attend as representatives of the United State.

Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada are also participating in this diplomatic boycott, all over China’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong and against their Muslim Uighur population. The move is a political weapon intended to sting the pride of China, and it appears to have already succeeded at that. With the Winter Olympics still two months away, China is calling the move an ‘outright political provocation.’

“Without being invited, American politicians keep hyping the so-called diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which is purely wishful thinking and grandstanding,” said Chinese Foreign Minster spokesperson Zhao Lijian. “If the U.S. side is bent on going its own way, China will take firm countermeasures.”

It’s unknown if the U.S. considered a full boycott. When asked about President Biden’s thoughts on the matter, White House press secretary Jen Psaki deferred the question.

“I don’t think that we felt it was the right step to penalize athletes who have been training and preparing for this moment, and we felt that we could send a clear message by not sending an official U.S. delegation,” said Psaki.

Many think the diplomatic boycott is too weak a move, and that Biden should remember that President Jimmy Carter kept U.S. athletes home from the 1980 Moscow Olympics in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is walking both sides of this line, applauding Biden for the soft boycott while critiquing the International Olympic Committee for allowing China to host the Olympics at all.

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