Beijing (AP) The US, Britain and a handful of others are not sending dignitaries to the Beijing Winter Games as part of a diplomatic boycott, but the Chinese capital is still attracting a slew of world leaders for Friday’s opening ceremony.
An overview of who is present, who is absent and why:
RUSSIA: President Vladimir Putin meets with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping ahead of the opening ceremony, underscoring the closer ties between Beijing and Moscow as they both face Western criticism and pressure.
EGYPT AND SERBIA: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Serbian Aleksandar Vucic have mounting frictions with the West over their authoritarian policies and human rights. Both leaders are drawn to China. Vucic called Xi his “brother” for supplying Serbia with respirators and vaccines.
SAUDI ARABI, QATAR, UAE: Relations in the Gulf of Beijing are mainly about energy. China is Saudi Arabia’s largest buyer of oil and a major buyer of Qatar’s natural gas. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of the kingdom, appears at the Winter Games as investors and some governments signal signs of warming relations after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
CENTRAL ASIA: Leaders of all five former Soviet republics in Central Asia are heading for Beijing, highlighting the region’s increasingly close ties to China. Kyrgyzstan’s president Sadyr Zhaparov last month pushed for the revival of a long-delayed project to build a railway from China through his country to Uzbekistan. China is the only reliable major consumer of natural gas in Turkmenistan.
ARGENTINA AND ECUADOR: Argentina will become the first major Latin American country to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative. President Alberto Fern Ndez is also expected to talk about helping China build Argentina’s first nuclear power plant since 1981. President Guillermo Lasso wants to renegotiate Ecuador’s $4.6 billion debt with China.
UNITED NATIONS: Secretary General Antonio Guterres and WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will attend. The IOC is a close partner of the UN, Guterres said, and the Olympics bring people together with a message of solidarity and peace. “This is … a message that I believe is more relevant than the political conditions in the countries where the Olympics are taking place,” he told The Associated Press.
BOYCOTT: The United States announced a diplomatic boycott and allowed its athletes to participate. Major US allies followed suit, including Britain, Australia and Canada, whose Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “We are extremely concerned about the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government.”
Kosovo and Lithuania, whose relations with China have fallen over their ties to Taiwan, are also taking part in the boycott.
India said it will not send officials over reports that a Chinese military commander involved in deadly clashes with Indian border forces in 2020 had been chosen as one of the Olympic torchbearers in Beijing.
NON-BOYCOTTERS: The Norwegian and Swedish royals, who normally go to the Winter Olympics, are not going. Nor are there any leaders from Germany, Austria or Switzerland, all major winter sports countries. Officially they are calling the pandemic, rather than any diplomatic protest.
Others, such as Denmark, the Netherlands and New Zealand, have cited COVID-19 restrictions while expressing concerns about the human rights situation in China. (AP)
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