China has threatened retaliation against the US decision to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, warning the move could imperil bilateral relations.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman at a press conference on Tuesday said it had launched "solemn representation" with the US and vowed to take "resolute countermeasures."
"Out of ideological bias and based on lies and rumors, the US is trying to disrupt the Beijing Winter Olympics. This will only expose its sinister intention and further erode its moral authority and credibility," Zhao Lijian said.
"The wrong move of the US has undermined the foundation and atmosphere for China-US sports exchanges and Olympic cooperation. It has shot itself in the foot. The US should understand the grave consequences of its move," he added.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced the boycott on Monday, saying that the Biden administration would not contribute to the "fanfare" of the Olympics.
"US diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC's [People's Republic of China] egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang," she said. "We simply can't do that."
But, the US government has apparently allowed its athletes to attend the marquee sporting event.
Relations between the world’s two biggest economies have been strained over a range of issues from trade to security to COVID-19 pandemic.
Although US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held a virtual summit last month, it produced no significant breakthroughs.
The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place from February 4 to 20 2022, followed by the Paralympics from March 4 to 13.
Chinese embassy in Washington also slammed the US boycott of the Winter Olympics; calling it "grave distortion of the spirit of the Olympic Charter", while adding that it won’t make any difference.
"Politicians calling for boycott #2022BeijingOlympics are doing so for their own political interests and posturing. In fact, no one would care about whether these people come or not, and it has no impact whatsoever on the #Beijing2022 to be successfully held," tweeted Liu Pengyu, spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in the US.
Politicians calling for boycott #2022BeijingOlympics are doing so for their own political interests and posturing. In fact, no one would care about whether these people come or not, and it has no impact whatsoever on the #Beijing2022 to be successfully held.— Liu Pengyu 刘鹏宇 (@SpoxCHNinUS) December 6, 2021
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of China’s state-owned tabloid Global Times, said “only super narcissistic people will regard their absence as a powerful boycott.”
"Why the fuss? If US officials don't come, let it be. China didn't invite them anyway." he tweeted. "Only super narcissistic people will regard their absence as a powerful boycott. Most of those US govt officials are close contacts of the COVID-19 patients according to China's standard, moreover picky and pretentious. You are the people that Beijing residents least want to see."
Why the fuss? If US officials don’t come, let it be. China didn’t invite them anyway. Biden administration repeatedly tests water. So diffident. https://t.co/KYEa8QPjSM— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) December 6, 2021
"The US just wants to politicize sports, create divisions and provoke confrontation," said a statement by the spokesperson of the Chinese Mission to the UN.
"The success of the Games does not rely on the attendance of a handful of countries' government officials."
Prior to the official announcement on Monday, Lijian lashed out at the US for attempting to politicize the Winter Olympics and said China would respond with “resolute countermeasures”.
At a news conference on Monday, he called the boycott "a grave travesty of the spirit of the Olympic charter" and "a serious insult to 1.4 billion Chinese people."
"US politicians keep hyping a 'diplomatic boycott' without even being invited to the Games. This wishful thinking and pure grandstanding is aimed at political manipulation," Lijian said.
He said the US should “stop politicizing sports and hyping up the so-called 'diplomatic boycott'”, while adding that the "plot" to disrupt the marquee sports event was doomed to fail.
The last time the US fully boycotted the Olympics was in 1980 when Jimmy Carter was in office.
The boycott was staged against the Moscow Games, in response to the Soviet Union’s military presence in Afghanistan the previous year. At least 64 other countries also took part in the boycott.
Meanwhile, many countries are weighing their options over participation in the global sports event.
On Tuesday, New Zealand’s deputy prime minister, Grant Robertson, confirmed the country would not send diplomatic representatives at a ministerial level. Robertson cited COVID-19 as the main reason.
The UK, Canada, and Australia have said they were considering their positions.
Last week, Lithuania, which is engaged in trade and diplomatic conflict with China over its growing relationship with Taiwan, announced neither its president nor ministers would attend the Games.