China Attacks NBC Olympics 'Dirty Tricks' - But Has One of Its Own


Hell hath no fury like an insecure dictatorship scorned by a map.

On Friday, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad opened in Tokyo after a one-year coronavirus-induced delay. There were plenty of storylines to be had at the opening ceremony: The pandemic, the lack of spectators, the cost of the contests to Japan.

For China, one of the headlines was the fact NBC didn’t show Taiwan as being part of its territory.

As Reuters reported, this was the map NBC Universal used as Chinese athletes entered during the opening ceremony:

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Moments later,  journalist and author Eric Fish wrote in a tweet, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie noted China was under “international scrutiny from human rights organizations and some primarily Western governments, mainly focused on its actions in Hong Kong, treatment of minorities’ populations, the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.”

Guess which one provoked the ire of the Chinese consulate in New York, which accused NBC of “violating the Olympics [sic] Charter spirits [sic]?”

The consulate claimed in a statement that the map “hurt the dignity and emotions of the Chinese people” because it included neither Taiwan nor the South China Sea.

China views Taiwan as a breakaway renegade province that will eventually be brought under Beijing’s heel. As for the South China Sea, China is involved in territorial disputes with a number of countries there, particularly over Beijing’s military expansion.

“We urge NBC to recognize the serious nature of this problem and take measures to correct the error,” the consulate said in its Saturday statement.

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The Olympic Charter, by the by, is a document codifying the rules of the Olympics. The parts the consulate general was presumably referring to have to do with the non-politicization of the games, which obviously don’t extend to the broadcasters.

Furthermore, the Olympic Games already goes out of its way to avoid the Taiwan question as much as possible. Athletes at the Games compete under the name of “Chinese Taipei” instead of their country’s actual name.

The Global Times, one of the chief English-language propaganda outlets for the Chinese Communist Party, also attacked NBC’s map.

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“When NBC was broadcasting the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games, it used an incomplete map of China,” a Saturday editorial stated.

“The Global Times confirmed with our correspondents at the Olympics that the map was added by NBC during its broadcast. It’s not part of the official Olympic live-stream. Some netizens posted on Twitter that when the Chinese Olympic team appeared in the opening ceremony, NBC’s narrator attacked China and asked the audience ‘not to forget Hong Kong and Xinjiang.’ For a long time, NBC has been vicious to China and some people have criticized it on Twitter.”

There was more along those lines, then it drew to a close:

“The Olympics is a holy stage. All dirty tricks need to be kicked out of it,” the editorial concluded.

For instance, dirty tricks like cutting away from the Taiwanese athletes as they entered the stadium for the opening ceremony and airing a standup comedy bit instead — which is what China’s Tencent Video streaming platform is reported to have done, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Bang Xiao:

What was that about the Olympic Charter again, Chinese consulate people?

NBC Universal has yet to respond to requests for comment from several major news organizations, including Reuters and The Hill. This is, at least, an improvement from other celebrities and entities that are quick to apologize to Beijing at the slightest sign of Taiwan-related discontent.

WWE wrestler and actor John Cena genuflected toward Beijing in May after making the grave error of saying that “Taiwan will be the first country to see” his new movie, the “Fast & Furious” sequel “F9.”

“I love and respect China and Chinese people. I’m very, very sorry for my mistake,” Cena said in a Mandarin-language apology. “Sorry, sorry. I’m very sorry. You must understand I love and respect China and Chinese people. Sorry. Goodbye.”

Companies and institutions usually don’t grovel quite that pitiably, but they can still end up apologizing more quietly.

“Maps’ references to self-ruled Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea have stirred controversy in recent years, with Johns Hopkins University last year reversing a decision to show Taiwan as part of China on a map indicating the spread of the coronavirus,” Reuters reported.

“Two years ago, U.S. retailer Gap Inc apologized for selling a T-shirt that it said had an incorrect map of China. A picture posted to social media showed that the T-shirt did not include the island of Taiwan or the South China Sea.”

However, it still feels like it’s not too much to hope for to expect NBC to push back on this. Taiwan isn’t China, a fact Beijing seems to feel awfully insecure about.

Indulging the communist dictatorship or tiptoeing around supposed hurt feelings will only make things worse in the future. NBC should simply say the truth: Its map showed China’s borders as they are, not as the Chinese Communist Party would like them to be.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture