China should avoid portraying Eileen Gu as a patriot because even though the U.S.-born phenom is skiing for the Chinese team now, it’s uncertain what nationality she will choose in the future, warned the outspoken former editor of China’s Global Times newspaper.
Publicity about Gu’s performance at the Winter Olympics should instead be limited to sports, Hu Xijin wrote in a social media post late Sunday. Phrases like winning glory for the country should be replaced with winning glory for Team China, he said.
“China’s national honor and credibility cannot be risked, and the country’s room for maneuver must be greater than that of any individual,” wrote Hu.
Gu’s popularity in China surged last week after she won gold in the Women’s Freestyle Big Air event. In addition to adoring coverage in local media, government agencies also celebrated Gu’s achievement. The country’s top anti-graft watch dog posted a video interview with Gu to its website, while the Ministry of Transport published a story about the skier’s grandmother, who had worked as one of its engineers.
Read More: Athletes in the Political Crossfire at the Beijing Olympics
The 18-year-old and her representatives, however, have avoided questions about her nationality and if she gave up her U.S. citizenship when she decided in 2019 to compete for China.
Hu warned that it may not be possible for Gu to be American in the U.S. and Chinese in China as she hopes because of the “deteriorating U.S.-China relationship.” That said, the former editor did not begrudge her success, writing that Gu could become the country’s most commercially valuable athlete if she can win another gold medal and act properly.
“Gu deserves the commercial returns as long as she minimizes the political factors,” Hu wrote.
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