Some Foreign countries have been in the news in the United States as much as China, largely because of the constant threats of an escalation in the ongoing trade war or retaliation against pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
More recently, China has made the news for its economic power in the market, not because its economy is booming or overtaking that of the United States while the Chinese economy has been. to slow down, but because of the significant effect it has on the United States and American companies looking to do business with it.
US companies have become complicit in Chinese censorship – used to shatter democratic values ââand carry out atrocities – maximize their profits by obtaining full access to the Chinese market.
One of the most important incidents happened in the NBA. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted an image titled “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong,” which was deleted shortly after. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta essentially denied Morey’s point of view on behalf of the Rockets’ organization and reflected on Morey’s future with the organization.
Chinese companies and the state have since responded by cutting ties with the Rockets, suspending contracts, canceling events and excluding preseason games. ESPN, which is owned by The Walt Disney Company, even sent an internal memo prohibiting employees from commenting on the Rockets-China situation.
Chinese censorship is reaching the digital world as well. Apple Inc. removed an app from the App Store that helped Hong Kong protesters by tracking police and removed Taiwanese flag emoji from all iPhones in Hong Kong.
Blizzard, a video game company, initially suspended one of its Hearthstone (a digital card game) players for a year and revoked all of its cash prizes for expressing support for Hong Kong during a broadcast on the Web. His gains have since been restored and his suspension reduced after fan backlash. A more comprehensive list of all known censors on major US corporations can be found here.
Large businesses and organizations should be expected to prioritize their bottom line over any sense of morality or humanity. This is not a review. Instead, it is a contemporary understanding of the role of business in society supported by economists like Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, who believed that the only role business should have in society is generate profit.
What then makes the complacency of American companies to censorship particularly difficult is its conflict with the values ââthat Americans have been nurtured for generations and the idea that an international free market order does not. does not need to coincide with democracy to be effective.
As companies continue to respect Chinese censorship, it undermines the “traditionally American” idea that free enterprise frees people, and in the marketplace of ideas, freedom and democracy trump authoritarianism.
What has happened in China so far has resulted in the opposite: an international free market may exist, but that market does not necessarily push towards a democratic ideal. If the larger size of the per capita market forces companies to take action in the opposite direction, the business world will not hesitate to contribute further downward pressure from the state on the population.
Have American companies stopped believing that democratic values ââwill trump the market for ideas? Or, was this whole philosophy based on an extreme bias of being the sole economic superpower for a long time and is now exposed to new challenges?
How the United States should react to this is unclear. Congress has almost universally condemned Chinese censorship both on its people and on American businesses, but political action remains elusive. Closing all trade with China until it allows true free speech in the market would be damaging to Americans and especially those in China, as hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in the sequel to China opens up to the world.
Maybe in the long run it will backfire on the Chinese state. Countries that increasingly repress their populations can become fragile over time. The Chinese government battling with some of America’s most important entertainment organizations, like the NBA, may make more Chinese people reject the government’s oppressive ways of policing.
In the future, the Chinese might reach a point where they want the experience of a democratic society on their streets, not just on their screens.
Austin is a senior at LAS.