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As the world prepares for the Winter Olympics in Beijing, the athletes will have to contend with more than just competing in their chosen sport. The Chinese government will implement extensive surveillance efforts to ensure the safety of all involved, to control the spread of COVID-19 and to serve China’s political interests. It is the latter reason that is of particular concern.

China’s national image before the world is of the utmost importance to the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CPC). Why would China feel threatened by professional athletes? Of what possible interest would the personal lives, actions and opinions of the world’s athletes be to China’s powerful regime? After all, these athletes have not spent their lives in self-sacrifice and arduous training just to spy on China. They will not have access to any Chinese government facilities, senior officials, or state secrets. Why then would China spy on them? The answer is to protect China’s image.

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