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Chinese Market Deters American Businesses from Supporting American Values… Justification for More Tariffs?

Last Friday, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted an image with the statement, “Fight for Freedom: Stand with Hong Kong.”

Daryl Morey, tweet, 2019.10.04. Screen cap from Bay Area Reporter, 2019.10.09.
Daryl Morey, tweet, 2019.10.04. Screen cap from Bay Area Reporter, 2019.10.09.

In response, Chinese businesses have stopped selling Houston Rockets merchandise, Chinese fans are threatening to boycott. Chinese search engines have thrown the Houston Rockets in the memory hole.

Facing such pressure on his business, for making a perfectly American statement, for providing exactly the kind of moral support that Hong Kong protestors are asking for and should expect from citizens of the world’s greatest democracy, Morey has been pressured to delete and apologize for his statement:

I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. 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 [Daryl Morey, tweet, 2019.10.07; quoted in Scott Neuman, “Houston Rockets GM Apologize for Tweet Supporting Hong Kong Protesters,” NPR, 2019.10.07].

Imagine if on July 7, 1776, Thomas Jefferson, realizing the damage his July 4 missive on human and political rights would do to his business interests, had dismissed his July 4 declaration as “merely one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have since had the opportunity to consider other perspectives.” In Jefferson’s case, the other perspectives would have been, King George is right; all men are not created equal, and we should be rounded up and flogged or shot for daring to fight for political reforms. Stability, development, and wealth are more important than freedom.

China seeks to subordinate democratic values to capitalistic—or, if you wish to fuss about China’s Communist status, materialistic—desires. When an American capitalist voices support for democracy, China hits him in the wallet, and the American capitalist and his company and industry fall all over themselves to negate American values in a pile of capitulatory and profit-preserving relativism.

Permit me to offer a radical stance, not one that I’m prepared to ensconce in absolute and perpetual policy, but one I’d like you to consider:

Because trade with China creates pressure on American businesses not to voice support for American values, trade with China should be severely restricted.

America’s security depends first and foremost on the worldwide promotion and adoption of its values of equality, liberty, and democracy. International commerce also supports American security, but not when it silences American values.

If Donald Trump saw American interests as his primary concern, he could use this idea to justify much broader tariffs and other economic sanctions on China. Impose an entertainment-export tax on athletes and other performers going to China to put on shows. Assess a democracy-insurance tax on American businesses placing factories in China. Dedicate all of those funds and proceeds from all the current tariffs to a World Free Speech fund, which can be used to compensate American citizens who suffer commercial retaliation from foreign regimes for exercising their First Amendment rights and promoting equality, liberty, and democracy around the world.

Alas, rather than using the NBA/Hong Kong/China controversy as an opportunity to lead an intelligent conversation about American principles and trade policy, he defaults to his selfish and unstatesmanly focus on insulting individuals who aggrieve him personally.

American businesses have to make hard choices about what matters. If selling tickets and jerseys to 500 million customers is going to stop American businesses from holding certain truths to be self-evident and encouraging others in their potential markets to do the same, then perhaps we should prevent those businesses from making choices that are bad for America.

*    *     *

To their credit, the NBA isn’t all quislings. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at least isn’t trying to fire Morey.

…In related news, Apple has pulled from its app store, because, the company says, criminals are using it to track Hong Kong police and “target and ambush police” and “threaten public safety.” Protestors can also use the app to protect themselves with what should be public information about the whereabouts of public officials.


  1. cibvet 2019-10-10 07:39

    China understands that American businesses will sell their soul along with their so called “American values”. They know money is power and power is used to control people. Its the dirty little secret this country pretends not to exist.
    Yes , the stooge running the treasury dept.collects money for tariffs, but in the end,American people pay for the tariffs when we buy their products.I’m sure China smiles all the way to the bank.

  2. jerry 2019-10-10 09:50

    China abandons Rockets, Chubby abandons the Kurds. We are so much alike, we deserve one another.

  3. Porter Lansing 2019-10-10 12:00

    ANTI- CHINA TRADE – This is scarier than Halloween. Chinese children memorize these power strategies and dedicate their business lives around them. Makes Machiavelli look like Mickey Mouse. Never think China doesn’t want to destroy us. EVER!!

  4. o 2019-10-10 12:16

    cibvet, exactly!! For most of the complaining about “unfair trade practices” are being done to/by US firms who choose to continue to work in China and be exploited in China, but they still make a buck, so continue the practice or even ask the US not to interfere too much.

  5. Eve Fisher 2019-10-10 12:48

    Also, never forget that China owns 19% of our debt. We owe them $1.1 trillion. Whenever the dollar drops, China buys more of our debt. Every once in a while, China threatens to sell some of it, knowing that would cause US interest rates to rise. Or they call for a new global currency.

    No matter what happens, China makes money.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-10 19:05

    Jerry, the difference is that China has never really been our ally. Our relationship for two generations has been geopolitical rivalry, backed now for one generation with a mix of economic rivalry and trade. The Kurds have taken great risks on America’s behalf, and we have crapped on them.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-10 19:11

    It looks like we got ourselves into the debt trap—or at least disadvantage—that Eve describes all by ourselves.

    I know there are other arguments that the national debt is no big deal. Is there some countervailing argument that says getting China to loan money to us actually draws them more tightly into our web? Can the Chinese afford to see us get into a tight financial spot?

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-10-10 20:14

    Peter Kafka writes in Vox this evening that Apple’s remarkable success in the Chinese market is a growing liability for its image as a good company. But Kafka also quotes Apple CEO Tim Cook’s December 2017 argument that engagement does more to promote American ideals than isolationism:

    “We believe our presence in China helps promote greater openness and facilitates the free flow of ideas and information,” Cook told Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in a December 2017 letter. “We are convinced that Apple can best promote fundamental rights, including the right of free expression, by being engaged even where we may disagree with a particular country’s law” [Peter Kafka, “Apple Cracked China When Facebook and Google Couldn’t. Now That’s a Problem for Apple,” Vox, 2019.10.10].

    But Kafka notes that Apple can’t really afford to lose “$44 billion a year in sales it makes in China” and “the deep network of suppliers and assemblers that build hundreds of millions of iPhones every year.”

  9. Debbo 2019-10-10 20:44

    That Apple app was used in Hong Kong to locate cops, then ambush them. Keep in mind that the ambushes by the protesters don’t involve guns, but they do sometimes include molotov gas bombs and other thrown objects. Apple withdrew the app from its store, but it still works for everyone who downloaded it.

    “International commerce also supports American security, but not when it silences American values.”
    That’s the conflict, dollars or patriotism. The GOP has been very clear that $ reigns supreme, as has Greedy Goober. As long as the US version of capitalism is all about exorbitant executive compensation and dividends for stockholders, I don’t see a change coming.

  10. jerry 2019-10-10 23:50

    Now, the only American values are Value Meals from fast food. It’s catching up to us fast, so much so that we are just the opposite of what we were prior to World War Deuce.

    In the 30’s we were starved with our teeth falling out from poor diet. Now we are fat as sausage and our teeth are falling out due to corn syrup and sugar. We’re having trouble with recruiting troops and really, who needs troops when you have Chubby and his republicans kissing the ring of Putin and every other despot. We really should be able to cut our military spending in half, right now.

    “SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) – One organization is worried the military will not have enough recruits to serve in the future, unless more schools support healthy eating and physical activity.

    The Illinois Director of Mission: Readiness, Tim Carpenter, said this group is committed to high quality early childhood programs and ensuring kids stay in school and stay fit.

    “We’re an organization of retired military leaders, generals and admirals from around the country,” Carpenter said.

    A new report from Mission: Readiness, said seven out of ten young adults in Illinois are not eligible to join the military.

    “Of the 70 percent that are ineligible, about half of that is due to obesity,” Carpenter said. “For kids as young as two in Illinois, we see obesity rates of about 14 percent.”

    Spooky stuff kiddo’s.

  11. Porter Lansing 2019-10-11 05:05

    It is scary, Jerry. President Kennedy was proactive on this with the President’s physical fitness test.

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