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Ethics of Boycott

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  • Published
    12th Jan, 2022


The U.S. government said it will stage what it called a “diplomatic boycott” of the Winter Olympics, set to begin in China

  • Host city: China was selected as the host city for Winter Olympics 2022 in July 2015 at the IOC session in Kuala Lampur.

Summit of Democracy: The announcement came days ahead of the U.S. President’s “Summit of Democracy”, with leaders and representatives from more than 100 countries where China and Russia were not invited.


Why has the US announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing?

  • Current issue: The decision was taken because U.S. diplomatic would treat these games as business as usual.
    • These games could not be treated as such because of China’s human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang.
  • Uyghur population: The atrocities that are happening particularly against the Uyghur population and the other religious and ethnic minority groups.

The Ethics of Boycotts

  • A boycott: is an attempt to persuade other people to have nothing to do with some particular person or firm either socially or in agreeing not to purchase the firm's product.
  • Morally: a boycott may be used for absurd, reprehensible, laudatory, or neutral goals.
  • Voluntary: The important thing about the boycott is that it is purely voluntary; an act of attempted persuasion, and therefore that it is a perfectly legal and licit instrument of action.
  • Values: a boycott may well diminish a firm's customers and therefore cut into its property values, but such an act is still a legitimate exercise of free speech and property rights.
  • Immoral: The boycott is a device that can be used by people who wish to take action against those who engage in activities that we consider licit but which they consider immoral.

Boycotts Can’t Be a Test of Moral Purity

  • Cutting ties: For some people, when they hear about some bad practices, their first reaction is to consider cutting ties.
  • Wrong belief: If someone is not strong enough to boycott, she lacks standing to object to the behavior of lawmakers and petition them for change.
  • Guilt: gets in the way of protest, and complicated chains of self-justification take the place of simple chains of democratic demand.

Are boycotts successful?

  • Depends on the success: The answer depends partly on how you define success.
  • Few changes: Very few boycotts have led to changes. Most boycotts lack a sustained effort” and people lose interest or stop paying attention.
  • Media attention: most boycotts achieve the more modest goal of attracting media attention. 
  • Boycotts are rarely the precipitating factor for change: Rather, they bring attention to an issue and signal the magnitude and intensity with which a group feels a particular way.
    • In most cases, a small minority of people call for a boycott that the wider community fails to support by taking substantive action.
  • Penalize sportsmen and women: An international consensus seems to have emerged that sweeping boycotts that include athletes are ineffective and serve only to penalize sportsmen and women.
  • Risk of reprisals: While boycotts may not change policy, they do run the risk of reprisals. 


  • Complete boycott: A diplomatic boycott, which means no official representation, holds far less weight than a complete boycott which would have meant the absence of American athletes.
  • Other countries: Australia and New Zealand have also announced that their officials will not be present in China.
  • Power struggle: It is a reminder of the current state of ties between the world’s two biggest powers, which have clashed over trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea among other issues. 
  • Clash of values: What has complicated that task is a growing clash of values, with ideological differences adding another element to a relationship already in trouble over trade and geopolitical leverage.


  • Russia: has announced its presence at the games, underlining the continuing closeness between China and Russia amid their divergences with the West.
  • Counter campaign: China has seized upon both the U.S. boycott and the democracy summit to launch a counter-campaign.
  • Sympathetic audiences: China will find sympathetic audiences in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, particularly among those countries left out of the summit including Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
  • Indian factor: India has found itself treading the middle ground in this clash of values despite the downturn in ties with China.
    • While the Prime Minister is among the leaders attending the democracy summit.
    • India signed off on a statement issued by the Foreign Ministers of Russia, India, and China expressed support for the games.

What other boycotts have happened in past Olympics?

  • Summer Games in Moscow: The most prominent boycott came in 1980, when more than 60 countries, led by the United States, boycotted the Summer Games in Moscow because the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. 
  • Boycott of the 1984 Games in Los Angeles: In 1984, the Soviet Union led more than a dozen countries in a boycott of the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. Although the cited reason was security concerns, there is little doubt the move was essentially a reprisal for the 1980 boycott.
  • Montreal Games: First major boycott of an Olympics came in 1976 when about 30 mostly African nations sat out the Montreal Games.
    • They contended that because a New Zealand rugby team had toured apartheid, South Africa, New Zealand should be barred from the Games. 

About winter Olympic

  • The Winter Olympic Games is a major international multi-sport event held once every four years for sports practiced on snow and ice. 
  • The first Winter Olympic Games was held in 1924 in Chamonix, France. 
  • The IOC is the governing body and the Olympic Charter defines its structure and authority.

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