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June 14, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright June 14, 2008. Used by permission.


Finally I have time to get back to the Olympic FAQ I posed several months ago:

Could China stop Taiwan from coming to the Olympic Games?

Actually, this was a trick question. Chinese leaders strongly desire for Taiwan to attend the Olympic Games and other major sports events because they are the most important venue in which Taiwan is displayed to the world as a dependent part of Chinese national territory.

Global politics usually don’t change as quickly as we would like, but they do change. One year ago I was one of many people who thought that the biggest political threat to the Beijing Olympic Games was the movement toward independence in Taiwan. Now it appears that the Taiwan situation is comparatively stable. But the symbols associated with Taiwan – including words – remain one of the most politically sensitive areas of the Olympic Games.

The story of China’s withdrawal from the IOC between 1958 and 1979 due to the IOC’s recognition of the national Olympic committee on Taiwan has recently been told in English based on newly available sources. For that background, I refer the reader to Xu Guoqi’s newly-published Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008; my chapter on “‘Sport and Politics Don’t Mix’: China’s relationship with the IOC during the Cold War,” in East Plays West: Essays on Sport and the Cold War;chapter 5 in my recent book, Beijing’s Games: What the Olympics Mean to China;and chapter 8 in the book that I translated, He Zhenliang and China’s Olympic Dream (by Liang Lijuan).