China’s stooges

Our last few postings here at Useful Stooges may have led some readers to think we’re under the impression that only athletes, teams, sports leagues, and sports-related firms have been doing a yeoman’s job of defending the Communist Chinese regime. Let us reassure our readers that we labor under no such illusion. In fact it is no secret that some of the largest U.S. companies manufacture many of their products in Chinese sweatshops and/or make handsome profits on the Chinese market, and thus feel a strong compulsion to maintain friendly relations with the Chinese government – and consequently are not about to risk their income by standing up for the freedom fighters of Hong Kong.

Mike Parker

In connection with the bowing and scraping of sports figures to the Beijing regime, we’ve already mentioned Nike, the sneaker company, which pays millions in endorsement deals to some of the biggest names in the hoops game. In September, as Fox Business reported, Nike’s CEO, Mark Parker, made a pretty straightforward declaration: “Nike is a brand of China, for China.” As Fox noted, Nike’s revenue in China during the third quarter of this year was no less than $1.7 billion. No wonder, noted Fox Business, that “Nike has gone silent on the controversy surrounding the NBA and China.” In fact it did more than go silent: after Daryl Morey, GM of the Houston Rockets, sent out a tweet supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, Nike “pulled its Houston Rockets merchandise from five stores in Beijing and Shanghai.” Mustn’t offend the sensitive feelings of Chairman Xi and his cohorts.

Tim Cook

Then there’s Apple. In an October 17 piece, Wired noted Apple CEO Tim Cook’s efforts to position his firm as “the Patron Saint of Privacy, the company willing to protect user data while others profit from it.” Yet whereas “Apple refused to help the FBI break into an iPhone that belonged to one of the alleged perpetrators of the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack,” it has been considerably more cooperative with Beijing, eliminating an app that was used by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and that came under criticism by People’s Daily, the official Chinese Communist Party newspaper. As we’ve previously noted, Apple obligingly made it impossible for Apple users in Hong Kong and Macao to access a Taiwan flag emoji. Also, in 2018, bigwigs at Apple ordered TV program developers in its employ “to avoid portraying China in a poor light.”

Richard Gere with the Dalai lama

Of course Apple is not alone in the last-named regard. China has become a lucrative market for American films. It finances a good many of them. It owns U.S. theater chains. Hollywood studios and producers are therefore exceedingly careful not only to scrub scripts clean of anything that might be offensive to the Chinese government, but to include pro-China propaganda. A recent article at the Heritage Foundation website quoted an observation by Stephen Colbert that in the disaster movie 2012, “humanity is saved because the Chinese government had the foresight to build life-saving arcs,” and that in Gravity, “Sandra Bullock survives by getting herself to the Chinese Space Station.” As Heritage’s Tim Doescher put it – chillingly – “Hollywood is relying more and more on the Chinese markets to make profits on movies. That means our films are being written with China in mind.” As a result, noted Heritage’s Mike Gonzalez, “we get shown a very benign view of China, in which China is a normal country, no different from Paris, or Britain, or Germany.” We also get a view of the world that omits what Gonzalez called “the three Ts”: “Tiananmen, Tibet, and Taiwan.” Also omitted is Richard Gere – who was a top Hollywood star until his outspoken support for Tibet got in the way. In short, when it comes to China, there’s a lot of useful stoogery going around – and as China’s financial, military, and cultural power increases, and as it buys up more and more shares of more and more Western firms, we can fully expect that stoogery to increase massively.

The NBA: a fully owned subsidiary of the PRC

Writing on Tuesday about the courageous stance of the people of Hong Kong, who have taken on the totalitarian tyrants of Beijing in the name of personal liberty, we concluded with the observation that sensible people in the Western world, who were lucky enough to be born in freedom, should look upon the bravery on display in Hong Kong with respect and humility.

Daryl Morey

Well, somebody admired the folks of Hong Kong. The other day, Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team, tweeted “Stand with Hong Kong.” But the owner of the team, one Tilman Fertitta, rushed to Twitter to say that Morey wasn’t speaking for the team. Former Houston Rocket center Yao Ming, who now heads the Chinese Basketball Association, suspended its relationship with the Houston team. Several Chinese companies that churn out merch for the NBA, including athletic wear manufacturer Li-Ning, also expressed outrage at Morey’s tweet. Ditto Tencent, a Chinese firm that has paid the NBA $1.5 billion to broadcast its games for the next five years. The NBA itself was quick to distance themselves from Morey’s anti-totalitarian sentiments, with league honcho Mike Bass lamenting that Morey’s tweet had “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.” Bass added that “We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”

Tilman Fertitta

In the end, Morey deleted his pro-freedom tweet and feebly assured all and sundry that he had not meant to offend anybody. “I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” Morey tweeted on Monday. “I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.” Could any of this be more pathetic? Yet this is the world we live in, where a Communist tyranny wields such power that an American citizen dare not speak up for freedom for fear of outraging Beijing. Sports like basketball and baseball are all tied up in a lot of people’s minds with American patriotism. But to the people who run the NBA, it’s clear, the greenbacks they get from Beijing are more important than the red, white, and blue.

Yao Ming

Nor is this cowardly, craven attitude restricted to the NBA. On October 7, it was reported that Apple had removed the Taiwanese flag emoji from the newly updated keyboards of iPhones sold in Hong Kong and Macau, China’s other so-called “special administrative region.” Did Apple do this on its own initiative, or was it following orders from Beijing? Whatever the case, as the Quartz website put it, when viewed “against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, the move exemplifies continued corporate subservience to the Chinese government.” The Quartz article further noted that Google and Microsoft, which earn zillions in income from everywhere else in the world, are so greedy that they, too, happily bow to Beijing – in their case, producing Chinese versions of their technologies that accord with the censorious dictates of Xi Jinping’s regime. In short, Chinese money talks. And American freedom be damned.