Beijing Tacitly Welcomes Media Spotlight on Russian Olympic Doping Case

News Analysis Reporting of a positive drug test by Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva is welcome news to Chinese state media. The latter have been working hard to deflect from any reporting on human rights abuses taking place in the country. Dodging any questions that pertain to issues such as the treatment of Uyghurs, tennis player Peng Shuai’s sexual assault allegation against a former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official, or the sudden disappearance of tech tycoon Jack Ma from public view for three months, the doping scandal has subsequently served as a pressure release valve for the Party. Now, CCP-run media outlets can go back to trying to scrounge up comments from Western athletes and officials on how great the regime’s handling of the Olympics are. Look how the West gushes over superior Chinese policy in arranging the Games and addressing COVID concerns! Like the Beijing Olympic slogan says, “together for a shared future,” right? Some have gone along with this CCP narrative and accepted the role of useful idiot. Others have stuck to principle and refused to echo the propaganda. For their part, many members of the media have taken the opportunity to refocus on the drama surrounding Valieva’s positive drug test. The Russia-as-bad-guy narrative is a generally accepted theme in news coverage, and this case fits the mold. According to the Associated Press, Valieva’s drug test, following the Russian figure skating nationals in December 2021, reported traces of the heart drug trimetazidine. The metabolic agent can marginally increase blood flow efficiency and improve endurance. RUSADA sign that reads: “Russian National Anti-doping Agency” on a building in Moscow, Russia, on May 24, 2016. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo) This case is particularly of notice considering the widespread doping scandal in Russian sports several years back. In 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency banned the country from competing in major sporting events, including the Olympics—hence the need for Russian athletes to currently compete under the flag of the “Russian Olympic Committee” in the Beijing Games. The ban was reduced to two years after an appeal in 2020, but the recent Valieva case adds an unfortunate element to the repeated Russian claims of innocence from the coordinated cheating effort of which it had been accused. The CCP is a savvy international actor and previously welcomed the heightened tensions in Eastern Ukraine as another respite from Western media coverage of Chinese human rights abuses as well. It has continually claimed that Western accusations of genocide and widespread repression in China are not only heinous lies, but additionally detract from the spirit of international cooperation that the Olympics are ostensibly meant to embody. As such, China likely perceived the diversion in Ukraine as advantageous. Beijing subsequently stayed quiet on the topic as hostile rhetoric between the West and Russia continued to escalate. Ukrainian serviceman watches Pro-Russian separatist positions from a trench at the contact line near the village of Svitlodarsk, in Donestsk region in Svitlodarsk, Ukraine, on Feb. 14, 2022. (Manu Brabo/Getty Images) It wasn’t until the meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the opening day of the Olympics that an official statement was released, stating China’s condemnation of NATO expansion at the expense of Moscow’s national security. But with the situation in Ukraine potentially approaching a peaceful nadir, China is faced with a renewed media spotlight on the status of human rights in the country. This begs the question as to why Xi did not continue to maintain a neutral stance on developments in Ukraine. Many pundits believe it is because of a burgeoning Moscow-Beijing entente. The two recently signed several agreements aimed at strengthening their bilateral relationship and increasing trade and technological cooperation. Still, this would not be in accordance with China’s national interest. The Chinese economic relationship with the United States is much stronger than with Russia. Moscow is a junior partner to Beijing, and it is not logical for the CCP to sacrifice its expanding economic preeminence in order to cast in its lot with a much less consequential player in the international market. The answer may lie with larger geopolitical considerations. Xi’s support of Putin’s expansionist views into Ukraine reflects the CCP’s ambitions in regard to seizing Taiwan. The solidarity is representative of the need for the two to maintain good diplomatic ties as they pursue not economic decoupling from the West, but rather their true national security interests: maintaining an autonomous Eastern Ukraine for Russia; and seizing Taiwan for China. The CCP’s primary goal of the Beijing Olympics has been to project the image of a unified China as an emergent superpower. Some observers of the international scene, such as for

Beijing Tacitly Welcomes Media Spotlight on Russian Olympic Doping Case

News Analysis

Reporting of a positive drug test by Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva is welcome news to Chinese state media. The latter have been working hard to deflect from any reporting on human rights abuses taking place in the country.

Dodging any questions that pertain to issues such as the treatment of Uyghurs, tennis player Peng Shuai’s sexual assault allegation against a former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official, or the sudden disappearance of tech tycoon Jack Ma from public view for three months, the doping scandal has subsequently served as a pressure release valve for the Party.

Now, CCP-run media outlets can go back to trying to scrounge up comments from Western athletes and officials on how great the regime’s handling of the Olympics are.

Look how the West gushes over superior Chinese policy in arranging the Games and addressing COVID concerns! Like the Beijing Olympic slogan says, “together for a shared future,” right?

Some have gone along with this CCP narrative and accepted the role of useful idiot. Others have stuck to principle and refused to echo the propaganda.

For their part, many members of the media have taken the opportunity to refocus on the drama surrounding Valieva’s positive drug test. The Russia-as-bad-guy narrative is a generally accepted theme in news coverage, and this case fits the mold.

According to the Associated Press, Valieva’s drug test, following the Russian figure skating nationals in December 2021, reported traces of the heart drug trimetazidine. The metabolic agent can marginally increase blood flow efficiency and improve endurance.

Russian National Anti-doping Agency sign
RUSADA sign that reads: “Russian National Anti-doping Agency” on a building in Moscow, Russia, on May 24, 2016. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo)

This case is particularly of notice considering the widespread doping scandal in Russian sports several years back. In 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency banned the country from competing in major sporting events, including the Olympics—hence the need for Russian athletes to currently compete under the flag of the “Russian Olympic Committee” in the Beijing Games.

The ban was reduced to two years after an appeal in 2020, but the recent Valieva case adds an unfortunate element to the repeated Russian claims of innocence from the coordinated cheating effort of which it had been accused.

The CCP is a savvy international actor and previously welcomed the heightened tensions in Eastern Ukraine as another respite from Western media coverage of Chinese human rights abuses as well. It has continually claimed that Western accusations of genocide and widespread repression in China are not only heinous lies, but additionally detract from the spirit of international cooperation that the Olympics are ostensibly meant to embody.

As such, China likely perceived the diversion in Ukraine as advantageous. Beijing subsequently stayed quiet on the topic as hostile rhetoric between the West and Russia continued to escalate.

Ukraine servicemen
Ukrainian serviceman watches Pro-Russian separatist positions from a trench at the contact line near the village of Svitlodarsk, in Donestsk region in Svitlodarsk, Ukraine, on Feb. 14, 2022. (Manu Brabo/Getty Images)

It wasn’t until the meeting between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the opening day of the Olympics that an official statement was released, stating China’s condemnation of NATO expansion at the expense of Moscow’s national security. But with the situation in Ukraine potentially approaching a peaceful nadir, China is faced with a renewed media spotlight on the status of human rights in the country.

This begs the question as to why Xi did not continue to maintain a neutral stance on developments in Ukraine.

Many pundits believe it is because of a burgeoning Moscow-Beijing entente. The two recently signed several agreements aimed at strengthening their bilateral relationship and increasing trade and technological cooperation.

Still, this would not be in accordance with China’s national interest. The Chinese economic relationship with the United States is much stronger than with Russia. Moscow is a junior partner to Beijing, and it is not logical for the CCP to sacrifice its expanding economic preeminence in order to cast in its lot with a much less consequential player in the international market.

The answer may lie with larger geopolitical considerations. Xi’s support of Putin’s expansionist views into Ukraine reflects the CCP’s ambitions in regard to seizing Taiwan. The solidarity is representative of the need for the two to maintain good diplomatic ties as they pursue not economic decoupling from the West, but rather their true national security interests: maintaining an autonomous Eastern Ukraine for Russia; and seizing Taiwan for China.

The CCP’s primary goal of the Beijing Olympics has been to project the image of a unified China as an emergent superpower. Some observers of the international scene, such as former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, believe this is in preparation of launching an assault on Taiwan at the conclusion of the Games.

“After this Olympics if everything goes smooth, they’re going to take Taiwan. And when they take Taiwan, it’s over,” said Haley.

Regardless of whether this scenario actually manifests, it is still essential for the CCP to project strength and stability. The key to illustrating the correct image of China is first and foremost to denounce any Western claims that expose the CCP as a repressive dictatorship and sully its image as a rising superpower.

As such, casting the spotlight back on Russian doping is a welcome reprieve for a regime whose primary media objective is to create an image of a prosperous China on its way to communist utopia.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Dominick Sansone writes on international relations with a focus on comparative politics, U.S. foreign policy, and Russia-China relations. Previously a Fulbright recipient in Bulgaria, he has also lived in North Macedonia and Bologna, Italy. His writing has been published in the National Interest, RealClear Defense, and the American Conservative.