Given that the Biden administration earlier this month announced a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics, China is asking why it's receiving visa applications for US government employees. That can be explained, the US answered: Those applications are for consular and security officers—not diplomats or high-ranking officials, the Washington Post reports. They're going to help American athletes and their coaches, said a spokesperson at the US Embassy in Beijing on Tuesday. "It is standard to have those personnel on the ground," the spokesperson said.
China, which called the boycott a "farce" on Monday, sees the US as playing games of its own. A foreign ministry official had already raised the issue of who's snubbing whom, saying no one asked the US to come to the Games anyway. "One can't decline an invitation without first receiving one," Hua Chunying tweeted. Australia, Britain, and Japan have joined the boycott to protest China's human rights abuses. Other US allies haven't, per the Hill, including France, South Korea, and Italy. A Biden administration official said the US isn't trying to sign up allies but did inform them of the boycott.
There are risks if allies sit out the boycott, analysts and lawmakers said. A protest sometimes "highlights to China where there is disagreement and who isn't willing to stand behind the United States when it takes these actions," said Mary Gallagher of the International Institute at the University of Michigan. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal wants US allies to help keep China from turning the Olympics into a propaganda victory. Already, he said, "China's using it in all kinds of subtle ways with influencers and other means to spread disinformation." China said it will handle the US visa applications in the usual way. (Read more US-China relations stories.)