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A Chinese Tennis Star Sparks a Global Revolt Against Chinese Communist Party

AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Roman


Peng Shuai is a famous Chinese tennis player, well known within the sports world, but until a little over a month ago, largely unknown to the world at large. She was not a political figure. She had no history of speaking out on politics. Yet in today’s China, everything is political. On November 2nd, 2021, Peng took to Chinese social media to complain about a climate of sexual impunity that applied to senior officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and in particular fingered former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, whom she accused of coercing her into a sexual relationship. Rather than stating a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault and promising an investigation, the Chinese government reacted by trying to go after Shuai. Discussion of the case on Chinese media was banned. Peng herself vanished.

Then something shocking happened. People around the world stood up to Beijing. The CCP had no reason to expect this. Major corporations have bent over to Beijing, censoring content the CCP finds objectionable. Governments have handed over key assets like the airports in their national capitals (as Uganda was forced to do recently). China is openly threatening the U.S. Congress in an attempt to prevent passage of legislation to protect American intellectual property. The dangers of standing up to China are significant, especially for those invested in the country. In October of 2021, the Boston Celtics had their highlights removed from China’s Tencent sports platform after Celtics center Enes Kanter criticized Xi Jinping.

Yet despite the risks, athletes rallied to Peng’s aid. Serena Williams, Billie Jean King, and Naomi Osaka all spoke out. Government officials joined them. More surprisingly, so did international sporting bodies, such as the International Olympic Committee and the World Tennis Association, which on November 19, 2021, announced it would pull all future competitions out of China. This was a brave stand given Chinese influence in general, especially over sporting associations. China will host the Winter Olympics next Winter, and the WTA stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in TV and streaming contracts without its Chinese business.

Faced with this pushback, the CCP has responded in ways which only seem to support Peng’s accusations and suggest that her disappearance was an effort to silence her. The CCP has released awkward video and photos of Peng supposedly at meals with her family at restaurants and “wishing fans a happy weekend,” giving the distinct impression of hostage videos. Most provocative was a letter, purportedly from Peng to the IOC recanting her charges of sexual assault.

The IOC, to their credit did not accept the letter at face value, demanding the chance to speak with Peng herself, un-coerced. They received the first part of that demand when the WTA was allowed a  30 minute “call” between Peng and the International Olympic Committee. Yet the call itself has reinforced rather than undermined the determination of those standing up to Beijing. According to an IOC statement, “She explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time.” The WTA declared, “This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern.”

It has long been assumed that standing up to China is futile. This may have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If anyone who stands up to the CCP finds themselves alone, because every potential ally is too scared to speak, then they will indeed be crushed, proving the uselessness of such efforts. But in the case of Peng Shuai, we see something else. When faced with unrelenting criticism over the tennis star’s disappearance, and the serious risk of reputational consequences, the CCP back-peddled. Not only did they release the pictures, but they also subsequently allowed the phone call. These are minor concessions, perhaps, but they show that Beijing understands the issue is inflicting enormous damage on its image, both at home and abroad.

The White House, which was already mulling a “diplomatic boycott” of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, a mushy compromise under which U.S. officials will not attend but otherwise U.S. athletes will participate, should go further and prohibit American participation, organizing an alternative games with nations which have also expressed concern for Peng’s safety. This issue provides both an opportunity and a risk. The risk of course is obvious. If Peng is forgotten, her safety is likely to be sacrificed as well. Even if she says and does everything the CCP wants, it is unlikely they will forgive her for the crisis she has caused, much less risk allowing her to travel abroad ever again. Her only plausible safety lies in being allowed to leave China. That must be the demand.

The opportunity for China critics lies in the nature of the issue. This is not a geopolitical clash where the CCP can appeal to nationalism. When it comes to Taiwan, the CCP can rally both Chinese nationalist sentiments domestically, and the self-interest of many countries around the world opposed to unilateral secession. When it comes to clashes with the United States, the CCP can try and argue that great power competition involves moral equivalency. Nothing could be further from the truth here. As the story has developed, it has come to appear that almost everyone in China knows someone who has faced harassment or pressure from a CCP goon. The reason the Chinese government has panicked and cracked down so heavily on discussion of this case within China’s censored media is presumably because it was breaking through to even their strongest supporters.

Internationally, it is a chance to rally countries and people of all backgrounds against the blatant abuse of an innocent woman who merely called out sexual abuse by a powerful man. There is no argument that anyone can make against it. Peng was in China, not the West when she made the charges, had no history of political activism, and the crackdown is a blatant attempt to silence the accuser by the CCP. The issue at stake is not political. It is about power, and whether officials of the Chinese government are beyond any sort of accountability.

Biden and other Western leaders have a chance to rally public opinion on an open and shut case. They should provide full backing to the IOC and WTA, including support in finding alternative venues for their events. Congress should use momentum to pass the Innovation and Competition Act, and go further. Rather than merely supporting U.S. tech firms which divest from the Peoples’ Republic of China, they should extend that to media firms and sports franchises. Even those who become famous and rich from the Chinese market are vulnerable to the whims of CCP apparatchiks.

Furthermore, Shuai’s case provides a clear warning of what a world under Chinese hegemony looks like. For all the CCP might talk autonomy and allowing separate systems with separate development, the CCP will not tolerate criticism of itself or any powerful figures in it, no matter their transgressions against either law or common human decency. It is clear that standard will be extended anywhere China holds influence. What that means is that freedom and safety cannot survive for anyone in a world where China enjoys economic hegemony. Peng Shuai is a canary in a coal mine. Thank God so many are now standing up. Because if a stand is not made here, where will it be?

Daniel Roman is the pen name of a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

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9 months ago

If you want to understand how china does business read “RED ROULETTE” by Desmond Shum.

9 months ago

Wake up you commie Dems. Don’t be so friendly with China, Mr. Biden Boycott the Olympics or any other sports occurring in China. We cannot bow to them. Otherwise, get ready to find them on our doorstep. Biden, do your job!!!!!!!!

9 months ago

Support tennis on TV and in person

9 months ago

China never should have been removed from our “Enemies List” by Clinton and, I think, Bush.
For sure, they need returned to that list and ALL ties severed. China is friends with no one, but enemies to all freedom lovers.

9 months ago

Boycott the olympics!!!

9 months ago

This is how the CCP silences its critics-they vanish!!!

9 months ago
Reply to  Evil


WR Miller
9 months ago

Boycott the Olympics!

Gary L Moore
9 months ago

The CPP is an authoritarian regime that enslaves the Chinese people, tramples what we consider basic human rights, and I find it strange that many get upset over one celebrity. This is how (fear) such governments use their power to keep the rest of us under their thumb. Coming to the U.S, soon.

9 months ago

While we’re here trying to keep the DNC from DESTROYING AMERICA and turn us over to CHINA while LARRY FINK and the rest of WALLSTREET sells US OFF? Joe and HUNTER are getting there MONTHLY checks from XI into their SHELL COMPANIES! Time for us to OPEN UP THOSE COMPANIES? Joe made $8 million so far this year off MODERNA! Think that’s “CONFLICT OF INTEREST” since he’s the PRESIDENT! Trump couldn’t run his businesses and the country and JOE definitely isn’t RUNNING THE COUNTRY! He’s to busy getting pudding or Ice cream while walking around the WH and CONGRESS! (They have an soft ice cream machine in congress). So he goes over there JUST FOR THAT I’ve been told?

Mark B
9 months ago

Sounds evil. But people in this country should be more worried about the DNC which seems to be mirroring the CCP. Do not get distracted by the shinny object over there..

9 months ago

What are you talking about? Everything in Commie China is political !!! When wasn’t it? Biden and the left’s role model being forced on us.

9 months ago

If only Americans which stand up for the way that we are being treated here in the United States. We have a two-tier law system now the rich powerful getaway with anything. And the lower tier The Working Man he’s held accountable for everything he says or does that goes against the people in power government big Tech. Lying media never tells the truth only there version of the truth God Bless America

Tim Toroian
9 months ago

I am of the opinion that China should never again be permitted to host an international athletic event or participate in one. Lewis Hamilton is concerned with human rights and the first-ever Formula One race held in Saudi Arabia but as I asked yesterday, Lewy what about China? He has driven many Formula One races there. Maybe he knows LeBron.

9 months ago

American ATHLETES should withdraw from the Olympics in China.

Word of Truth
9 months ago
Reply to  Fran

That only punished that athletes who have trained and planned for years. The best approach would be for the IOC to never hold future competitions in Communist China.

Pete from St Pete
9 months ago

Joe Biden was accused by a former aide of sexually assaulting her to the point of penetrating her with his finger. The mainstream press chose to ignore it on the basis they had no way to prove her accusation is true. Of course, that did not deter them from parroting every accusation made regarding the Russia impeachment, even though they later proved to be made up with no factual basis. I saw an interview of the accused woman (who now lives in Australia) and truthfully, I believe her word over the President any day. Maybe the world is waking up to how Socialism really works.

9 months ago

If only we could get Hollywood hypocrites on board, too.
On the other hand, when Trump imposed trade tariffs China retaliated with Covid.
stock up on Masks, Lysol and Purel folks! It ain’t over.

Kyle Buy you some guns,and learn how to shoot
9 months ago

Want to hurt China. ???? Stay out of Wal-Mart. P.S. Dont buy Hellsman Mayo. The Chinese now own that. Kyle L.

9 months ago

Can’t anymore. Wallymart drove all the other businesses out.

9 months ago
Reply to  Becky

There are lots of products made in America. Search an item with the word ‘made in America ‘.

9 months ago

China’s censorship techniques against the Celtics and aggression activity against the US Congress makes it clear that they are also active in the BLM and Antifa protests in America and around the world. It is becoming clear who is reaponsible for so much more than just the worldwide Covid and inflation problems we all live with. Banning China and putting economic pressure on their economy is the resolution.

Mike Ecko
9 months ago

Free Tibet. Free the Uighars. Free all prisoners of conscience. Stop the harvesting and sale of organs from prisoners of conscience. Support a free Taiwan.

Don Pierce
9 months ago
Reply to  Mike Ecko

Amen to that.

Stephen Russell
9 months ago

Come out & come forth all those living in the US from China, Come & aid her cause
ALL Chinatowns in the US alone

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