Sunday, February 23, 2020

The implicit influence of China on major corporations

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  • The Hong Kong protests have been going on for almost five months with no end in sight
  • The Chinese government have done their best to censor pro-Hong Kong messages and imagery from corporations around the world
  • Corporations like the NBA, Apple, and Blizzard Entertainment are prime examples of how powerful Chinese influence really is

The Hong Kong protests have been going on for almost five months with no end in sight just yet. The struggles of the people of Hong Kong are felt throughout the world and people outside of the city are doing their best to stand in solitude for their fight for democracy. Platforms across the internet are filled with pro-Hong Kong messages, and outcry to free the city in an effort to get the message through the Chinese Communist Party. 

Image result for hong kong protests

via Daily Express

But in China’s efforts to push back and censor these messages, they sought out to cancel the messages not from the source, but from the hosts. Big corporations such as Apple, Blizzard, and the National Basketball Association are now in the midst of a political warfare and now they are forced to choose between the freedom to champion the speech of their patrons or, well, profit. 

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It started with the NBA, where Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted in support of the fight for freedom in Hong Kong. Athletes and sports figures taking a political stand is not new in the political climate where everybody needs to stand for something, and usually the backlash is more localized. 

General Manager Daryl Morey of the Houston Rockets speaks to the Chinese media in 2016.

via Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

But Morey didn’t realize that he had stepped onto a much bigger landmine – Chinese politics, just as the NBA is trying their best to aggressively expand to penetrate the Chinese market. 

The tweet caused an outcry from the Chinese government; China threatens that it won’t stream NBA pre-games in the country, major Chinese-owned corporations have pulled Rockets merchandise from their roster, and Chinese-owned companies like TikTok are doing their best to censor content that are in any way connected to the Houston Rockets.

Morey himself got denounced by the Chinese Consulate in Houston, as well as by the owner of his team. His tweet was deleted, and the Chinese Basketball Association announced that it is suspending all cooperation with the Rockets. 

There was terribly awkward backpedalling that went on; Morey was made to apologize, and the NBA put out a statement that characterized his tweet as “regrettable,” and distancing the company from the manager saying that his support for the Hong Kong protesters “does not represent the Rockets of the NBA.” 

Too far? Well, The Rockets are reportedly considering firing Morey in an effort to appease the Chinese. 

The downward spiral of just one tweet has caused other teams in the United States to censor speech as well. And it’s not just in NBA, the gaming company Blizzard Entertainment suspended professional e-sports star player Ng Wai Chung from a major competition called Hearthstone Grandmasters for wearing protest great and calling out a Hong Kong protest slogan on an official Hearthstone broadcast on Twitch. 

But one of the biggest tech platforms that have high stakes into the Chinese market is Apple. The giant both manufactures and sells its devices there, and the Chinese market is vital to their growth. 

Recently, Apple has removed HKmap.live, a crowdsourcing mapping app widely used by Hong Kong residents, from the App Store. The app and the accompanying web services have been used to mark the locations of police and inform about street closures during the ongoing pro-democracy protests in the recent months. 

Image result for screenshots of hkmap.live

via PCMag.com

This is only part of a long list of practice that Apple does to appease Beijing. They have removed apps such as Quartz and The New York Times from the App store in the country. What’s more, it continues to trickle down into the development of Apple’s slate of exclusive Apple TV+ programming, where they advise the creators of some of the shows to avoid portraying China in a poor light, according to BuzzFeed News. 

Most American corporations aren’t immune to it either. 

These corporations have to face a choice between upholding the value of free speech from its workers and its patrons, or a guaranteed access into the Chinese market. The concessions that these major corporations to Chinese whims just prove that the United States is a proud capitalist democracy. -BBC/Vox/NPR/BuzzFeedNews

Featured image from The National

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