The stark difference in treatment between US-born skater Zhu Yi and freestyle skier Eileen Gu

The stark difference in treatment between US-born skater Zhu Yi and freestyle skier Eileen Gu
People line up to board a train near an image of freestyle skier Eileen Gu at a railway station ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, in Beijing, China February 3, 2022. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

The backstory:

  • China doesn’t allow for dual citizenship. So when it comes to competing for China on an international scale, if you’re not a citizen, you’ll have to give up your existing citizenship for a Chinese one to represent the country.
  • And that’s what figure skater Zhu Yi did. Born in the United States to Chinese immigrant parents, she gave up her US citizenship to represent China at the Beijing Winter Olympics. And on Sunday, she came in last in the women’s short program, which led to intense criticism online.
  • Over the past few years, nationalist voices have been a lot louder as President Xi pushes for a national rejuvenation. While there are varying interpretations of this, essentially, it means, that the Chinese people should “dare to dream, work assiduously to fulfill the dreams and contribute to the revitalization of the nation."
  • These nationalist voices have also grown as China’s relations with other countries, most notably the US, have taken a turn for the worse.

The development:

  • After Zhu came last on Sunday, the hashtag #ZhuYifelldown went viral. On Monday, when Zhu competed again, she fell twice and broke down in tears.
Zhu Yi and Eileen Gu
  • Speaking about her performance, she explained to Chinese state-backed media outlet Xinhua News Agency that after reading the comments on Monday, “I wanted to prove myself, because I didn’t do so well yesterday, and what everyone said on the internet really affected me. I have trained very hard. The problem now is psychological. I will try not to be affected by the outside world.”
  • Now the Chinese government has taken a stand and seemingly censored the hashtag about Zhu falling.
  • This is in contrast to the treatment that US-born freestyle skier Eileen Gu has received.
  • Gu is a fashion model whose face can be found across billboards for some of the biggest brands across China, and she’s on her way to study at Stanford. The Chinese public already loved her, but after choosing to compete for China, she won her first Olympic gold medal on Tuesday, which only intensified the public adulation.
Zhu Yi and Eileen Gu
2022 Beijing Olympics – Victory Ceremony – Freestyle Skiing – Women’s Freeski Big Air – Beijing Medals Plaza, Beijing, China – February 8, 2022. Gold medallist Gu Ailing Eileen of China celebrates on the podium. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
  • The two have also been compared, from their biracial appearances, where Gu’s seems more obvious, to language capabilities, where Gu appears more fluent.

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