World leaders attending Beijing Winter Olympics
Beijing (AFP) – The upcoming Winter Olympics are the target of a US-led diplomatic boycott over China’s human rights abuses. But there will still be a gathering of leaders at the opening ceremony of the Games, most with key political or economic links to China.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first foreign leader to confirm his presence at the Beijing Olympics in September.
The Kremlin strongman has close ties with President Xi Jinping, his “dear friend”.
The two have not met face-to-face since the start of the pandemic and Xi said in December he is “impatient” to see Putin at the Olympics.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will also head to the Chinese capital.
Pakistan — which shares a border with China — is a strategically important partner to Beijing, including the $54-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project to upgrade infrastructure, power and transport links between its northwestern Xinjiang region and Pakistan’s Gwadar port.
Mongolia is sending its Prime Minister Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene, in his first trip to China since his appointment in January 2021.
The landlocked country’s economy is dependent on mineral exports to its giant neighbours, Russia and China.
China will also welcome South Korean National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-Seug at the ceremony.
Middle East & Central Asia
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as leaders from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are expected to attend the opening ceremony in Beijing.
Ministers from the Gulf states visited China earlier this month amid efforts by Beijing to boost ties with the oil-rich region.
Days after a videoconference with Xi to mark the 30th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are also expected to visit the Chinese capital.
Three of these Central Asian countries share a border with China.
Southeast Asia & Pacific
Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, whose country has a close relationship with China, will also visit.
King Sihamoni last paid a visit to Beijing in May 2020, in the midst of China’s coronavirus epidemic, for medical treatment.
Cambodia and China have signed a number of infrastructure deals in recent years including a recent promise from Beijing for $250 million towards the country’s development projects.
Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob, as well as Thailand’s Princess Sirindhorn and Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape, will also join the opening ceremony.
Although he tested positive for Covid-19 in early January, Polish President Andrzej Duda is still expected to join the Winter Olympics in February.
China has imposed very strict rules on entering the country — including for anyone previously infected with the virus — but it seems that exceptions are being made for the Games.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, as well as representatives from Luxembourg, Monaco, Azerbaijan and Bosnia and Herzegovina, are also set to make an appearance at the opening ceremony.
Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez has said he will take advantage of the Olympic Games to make an official visit to China between February 4 and 6.
Ecuador will also send its president Guillermo Lasso to the opening ceremony.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach arrived in Beijing ahead of the Games and has already met with Xi.
World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are also among global institution leaders coming to the Games.
Beijing has said that the president of the UN’s General Assembly — Abdulla Shahid — will take part in the Winter Olympics torch relay, which is to be closed to the public because of coronavirus fears.
The United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Denmark have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Games over China’s human rights record.
Other nations such as Japan are not sending officials and have voiced concerns about China’s rights record while steering clear of formally announcing they are part of the boycott.
Some countries such as the Netherlands and New Zealand have said they will not send officials due to China’s strict pandemic travel restrictions.