Despite unmistakable structural similarities in the geopolitical environment, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics that begin on February 4th will not become Berlin 1936. There will be no post-Olympic pause, no global goodwill bounce, and no thaw in Sino-American tensions after these Winter Olympic games because China does not aim for these outcomes.
The Nazi approach to leverage the 1936 Olympics for positive propaganda and influence by attraction does not match the Chinese strategy with this year’s Olympics. Instead, China seems determined to project economic and ideological superiority in a manner calibrated to influence by coercing adherence and grudging respect.
Not since the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympic Games has a host country been one of three or more Great Powers actively competing against one another globally to project national power, attain divergent interests, and increase influence with other states. As at Berlin in 1936, Beijing 2022 promises to be an intensely competitive Olympics well beyond the fields of friendly strife, and it will be contested at a geopolitical moment without historical parallel in the post-World War II era.
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Dr. Thomas F. Lynch III is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) at the Institute of National Strategic Studies (INSS) of the National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect those of the National Defense University or the Department of Defense.