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EDITORIAL | China Uses Asian Games to Advance Territorial Ambitions

Olympic officials turned a blind eye as China prevented athletes from Arunachal Pradesh, the Indian state it is claiming, from participating in the Asian Games.



China's President Xi Jinping waves at Chinese athletes at the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou on September 23. (©Kyodo)

For political reasons, three Indian martial arts athletes have not been allowed to participate in the Asian Games being held in the city of Hangzhou in China's Zhejiang Province. As a result, India's government protested and canceled a visit by its sports minister to China.

The female athletes in question, who are from the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, were unable to obtain the necessary documents to enter China.

Beijing claims a large swath of Indian territory, including that state, as its own and refers to it as Zangnan (southern Tibet). 

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), the organizer of the Asian Games, has stated that one of its fundamental principles is "to apply and uphold the principles set forth in the Olympic Charter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)."

The Olympic Charter clearly forbids discrimination of any kind, declaring that discrimination against any nation or individual of any kind, including race, religion, politics, gender, national or social origin, or for any other reason is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

Spectators cheer for the Chinese athletes at the opening ceremony of the Hangzhou Asian Games, September 23, Hangzhou (©Kyodo)

Defending the Olympic Charter is the IOC's Job

China's despotic action in refusing to let the Indian athletes participate constitutes a gross violation of the IOC's charter.

IOC president Thomas Bach and officials from the OCA were in attendance at the opening ceremony in Hangzhou. They should have spoken out and severely reprimanded the Chinese government. Turning a blind eye to Beijing's high-handed action is the wrong response.

In his welcoming address at the opening ceremony, President Xi Jinping said that sports should promote peace. He added that they should stave off Cold War thinking. But which party is reducing sporting competitions to arenas to advance its territorial ambitions? The answer couldn't be clearer.

Territorial Ambitions on All Its Neighbors

China's Ministry of Natural Resources released a new map at the end of August. It stirred up a hornet's nest among China's neighbors because of its expansive claims in the South China Sea. However, it also depicts Arunachal Pradesh as Chinese territory. 

In December 2022, the area in dispute was the scene of a violent clash between units of the Indian and Chinese militaries. Indeed, it resulted in casualties. The Chinese side has also constructed residential facilities and conducted road maintenance without agreement between the two sides, it was confirmed. 

These actions replicate on land Beijing's strategy of seeking to establish a fait accompli in the South China Sea. The refusal to allow athletes from Arunachal Pradesh to participate in the Asian Games is merely an extension of this game plan.


The new Chinese map shows the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture as the "Diaoyu Islands." That is the name China has given to the islands. China rejected Japanese protests about the map. Instead, China's foreign ministry has contended that the "Diaoyu Islands are Chinese territory and it was only natural that they were shown as such on the map."

Beijing also clearly has designs on the main island of Okinawa. We can well imagine that in the future athletes from Okinawa might be denied entry into China for international sporting events.

That is why the issue of the Indian athletes who were refused entry into China for the Asian Games is significant. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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