California-born skier Eileen Gu, 18, turned her back on Team USA to compete for China


OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion


Even though Californian skier Eileen Gu turned her back on Team USA to instead represent China at the 2022 Winter Olympics and promote the games worldwide, iconic American brands such as Tiffany’s and Cadillac continue to sponsor her.

Originally from San Francisco, the 18-year-old spent most of her childhood there and attended high school there. Additionally, she has been accepted to Stanford University. Her mother Yan is reportedly a first-generation Chinese immigrant, while her father is reputedly American, but he has never been named publicly.

For most of her freestyle skiing career, Gu competed as an American. However, she will attend the Olympics this year as a Chinese athlete and has begun promoting the event for the Chinese, narrating videos online and appearing in commercials.

Her decision was made when she was 15, saying at the time she wanted to inspire young Chinese girls to pursue winter sports, which are comparatively less glamorous in Asia than in the United States.

At the moment, it is unclear where Gu stands with regards to his American citizenship – China does not recognize dual citizenship and under-16-year-olds may not renounce their American citizenship since they are not considered mature enough to make the decision.

Her representatives won’t confirm whether or not she gave up her citizenship, or if China asked her to do so.

Her sponsorship deals with American brands such as Cadillac, Tiffany’s, Visa, Therabody, Victoria’s Secret, and Oakley allow her to represent China – where she uses the names ‘Gu Ailing’ and ‘the snow princess’ and has 1.3million followers on Weibo.

While still cashing in on her celebrity, she does not seem to understand or realize the conflict inherent in representing one of America’s long-standing enemies.

‘When I’m in America, I’m American. When I’m in China, I’m Chinese,’ Gu, fluent in Mandarin, told Red Bull’s Bulletin in a recent interview.

She posted a picture on Weibo telling fans she just finished eating dumplings after landing in Beijing last week.

Gu’s decision to leave Team USA in order to compete for China probably has something to do with how quickly skiing is becoming a celebrity sport in China.

As soon as the Winter Games were awarded to China in 2015, it announced plans to open at least 800 new ski resorts.

Gu, who grew up in San Francisco but traveled to China every year as a child, wants to be part of this growth.

‘In the beginning, I knew every single person in the park because there were only 10 or 20 of us in the whole country. Now it’s the trendiest place to be.

‘In the US, I grew up with all these idols and I wanted to be that for somebody else,’ she explained during her interview with Red Bull.

She has not publicly commented on how China treats its athletes or acknowledged the longstanding tension between the US and China.

On Tuesday, reporters inquired about her mother Yan’s travel on private jets to sporting events and fashion shows. She did not respond right away.

There is no information about what endorsement deals or sponsorships she has received from Chinese companies.

It is said that she is called ‘the snow princess’ in China.

As guest editor of this month’s edition of Vogue plus, the online extension of Vogue China, where she discussed the balancing act between her Chinese and American identities.

Elle China also featured her on its cover recently.

She has appeared in Olympic promotional videos, running along the Great Wall of China while carrying the Olympic torch, according to Red Bull.

Videos like these are not available online, which is consistent with China’s stranglehold on what is reported about it.

There was no response from the State Department regarding her citizenship on Tuesday.

Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that Red Bull published Gu’s story about giving up her passport in order to compete in China.

In her bio, Red Bull removed all references to her citizenship.

She is not the first celebrity to support China on the international stage instead of the US.

Nicholas Tse, a Chinese-Canadian actor, renounced his Canadian citizenship last year and pledged allegiance to China.

Similarly, he claimed that his mission was to inspire Chinese youths and spread the culture of China abroad.

Hollywood has even appealed to the Chinese in order to save their spots in the gargantuan Chinese market.

John Cena apologized for referring to Taiwan as a country instead of a territory of China last year, pleading for forgiveness on social media with his Chinese fans.

In 2020 it was revealed that a Chinese citizen named Fang Fang targeted rising local political figures in the California Bay Area and across the country who had the potential of reaching national prominence.

Among the most significant targets of the suspected CCP spy’s efforts was Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). It was later found out that Swalwell, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, slept with the alleged Chinese spy and had a relationship with her.

Axios first reported on Fang’s spying and her relationship with Swalwell, a Democrat.

“The Bay Area has one of the largest and oldest Chinese American communities in the country. Keeping tabs on Chinese diaspora communities is a top priority of China’s intelligence services, U.S. officials said.

China’s spy services want to influence these communities to become more predisposed to the regime, as well as surveil and stamp out potential organized opposition to the Communist Party.

Access to local political offices can give Beijing’s intelligence operatives opportunities to collect information on communities of Chinese descent in the United States.

Details: Fang’s earliest known engagement with Swalwell occurred through the Chinese Student Association. By 2014, she had risen in local political circles and developed close ties to Swalwell’s office.

Fang “was a bundler” for Swalwell and other candidates, according to a Bay Area political operative with direct knowledge of her efforts. A current U.S. intelligence official confirmed her activity for Swalwell; a local elected official also said she brought in donors for other candidates. Bundlers persuade others to write checks for campaigns; they can bring in substantial sums of money as well as deepen the campaign’s engagement with target communities, making bundlers a valuable and thus potentially influential ally to a candidate.

The Bay Area political operative who witnessed Fang fundraising on Swalwell’s behalf was concerned whether donors she brought in were legally permitted to donate. They found no evidence of illegal contributions.

Fang facilitated the potential assignment of interns into Swalwell’s offices, the political operative said. In at least one case, an intern recommended by Fang was placed into Swalwell’s D.C. office, this person said. A current U.S. intelligence official confirmed the intern placement.

For Fang, targeting Swalwell made sense. His 2012 campaign — which was something of a longshot bid, pitting a young and relatively inexperienced city official against a longtime incumbent from the same party — relied heavily on Asian American support, said a former congressional staffer from the East Bay.

That made Swalwell’s ties to the Chinese American community, and particularly APAPA, the Asian American civic organization, especially important.”

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