02/10/2022, 11.38
Send to a friend

Olympics: US-born Chinese skater slated by Beijing netizens

by Lu Haitao

Zhu Yi has come under the spotlight of national public opinion after two falls. According to critics, she was only chosen because of the influence of her father, a renowned scientist and expert in artificial intelligence. On the other hand, the gold medal-winning skier Eileen Gu, who was also born in the United States, was acclaimed.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Chinese figure skater Zhu Yi has come under fire from national public opinion after her dire performance at the Winter Olympics in the capital. Zhu is of US origin. Born in 2002, she grew up in the United States under the name Beverly Zhu, and then obtained Chinese nationality. Chinese netizens bombarded her with criticism: after a first fall on her debut on 6 February, she fell again the next day.

The athlete finished her performance in tears and sobbing. Despite Zhu Yi’s failure, her teammates hugged her. China ranked fifth in the figure skating team competition, the best ranking in this game for Chinese athletes. Zhu Yi’s fell in her first performance became trending on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service. Comments harshly criticized her and there were also taunts, as well as sympathy on her lapse. Weibo soon launched censorship and removed the topic from the ranking of the trends since Sunday, and negative comments were also removed. 

The number of medals in international sports events is seen as a crucial element of the national power by Chinese authorities. Athletes usually burden great pressure to compete for a good ranking. In previous sports events, multiple athletes were verbally attacked for unsatisfied performance in the venue.

In this context, the naturalized athletes are also faced with pressure for the rankings. Besides the expectation of the performance, Zhu Yi is also criticized for her insufficient Chinese language skills. What is more, the condemnation focuses on Zhu Yi’s family background and influence. Online comments question her qualification for the national team, while another strong figure skater Chen Hongyi was not selected, though lacking evidence. 

Zhu Songchun, Zhu's father, is a renowned scientist specialising in artificial intelligence and vision, and robotics. Many Chinese believe that Zhu got the Olympic call in exchange for his father's contribution to the national artificial intelligence project.

Zhu Songchun was a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He returned to China in 2020 and became the head of the Institute for Artificial Intelligence of Peking University. Research in artificial intelligence is one of China’s priorities competing with the US.

In recent years, China has absorbed naturalized athletes into the venue of competitive sports to improve the rankings. At this Winter Olympics, 28 naturalized players are recruited into China men’s and women’s ice hockey teams. The analysis says that talents from overseas may boost the performance in a short time, especially for the emerging sports, however, this measure may impair the opportunity for native athletes in the long term.

However, skier Eileen Gu who won the gold medal in freestyle skiing is cheered by both authorities and netizens. Eileen Gu is also a US-born athlete naturalized as a Chinese athlete. Dual citizenship is not allowed by Chinese law, and whether Eileen Gu has given up her US citizenship is still unknown. Her ambiguous attitude to nationality has not bought her any problem in China, and authorities also avoid mentioning this issue. It seems Eileen Gu has the privilege to keep her status of dual citizenship as an exception to the law. 


Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Hong Kong, Jimmy Lai's trial postponed: No from pro-Beijing authorities to his British lawyer
01/12/2022 14:43
US wants 'democratic alliance' against Chinese microchip industry
03/11/2022 13:36
UN Human Rights Committee: Hong Kong must abolish security law
28/07/2022 13:10
To shore up power, Xi weakens Communist Youth League 'enemies'
05/05/2022 12:39
Xi's 'zero-Covid' policy: growing discontent
21/04/2022 16:12


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”