Assisting China’s political agendas?
A now-deleted controversial tweet by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey offering support for Hong Kong’s anti-government protests saw hostile backlash from China. Various Chinese companies, such as the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), Li-Ning, Tencent and the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank have suspended cooperation with the Rockets, and called on them to give a clear response on Morey’s tweet. Rocket fans also expressed their disapproval on the Rockets’ Weibo account, calling for Morey to apologise for the tweet. The Rockets subsequently said Morey’s views did not represent those of the team. The National Basketball Association (NBA) also said it was “regrettable” that the tweet had caused offence in China.
The NBA didn’t stop there. They also reaffirmed Morey’s right to free speech, and declined to apologise. Some lauded the move, saying that the NBA shouldn’t be assisting China’s political agenda.
Western firms (pressured) to kowtow to China
The Rockets are one of many Western firms that face a dilemma: to rely on the gigantic Chinese market for their lucrative sales and profits, they will have to remain in the Communist Party of China’s (CCP) good books. Earlier this October, Apple and Google removed applications related to the Hong Kong anti-government protests from their app stores, including those that allowed users to track police activity on a crowdsourced map service and those letting users role-play as a Hong Kong protester. The removals came after the CCP-run People’s Daily newspaper labelled the applications as “toxic”.
Other Western firms can’t say no to the CCP’s political agendas. American hotel chain JW Marriott’s website in China was shut down by Chinese authorities in 2018, after a customer questionnaire listed Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong as separate countries, prompting JW Marriott to apologize and change the wording.
Bottom line concerns
Corporate success appears to be the primary concern for many foreign firms in China. Businesses are still accountable to their shareholders instead of political agendas, and if foreign firms in China refuse to abide by CCP’s demands, they’ll lose a significant portion of its sales, and people may lose their jobs.