Integration with China was supposed to spread our values; it's done the opposite
Cynically: China did learn our values: that money is the most important thing to America and we'll throw most things under the bus in pursuit of them.
With regard to LeBron, I disagree - I actually hold him 100% responsible and think what he said was an embarrassment. I have no problem with NBA players deciding that they just want to focus on domestic activism, and I don’t think any who do should ever be asked about China, because that’s not relevant. But LeBron specifically criticized what Morey said. Once you step into international politics as an athlete, you better know your stuff, and I think he deserves to be hounded about it from now until the heat death of the universe because it was a complete embarrassment.
To be fair the criticism of Lebron comes because he in particular helped throw Morey under the bus by saying:
“I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke, and so many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and what we say, and what we do. Even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too.”
If only there were a billion Americans needing our goods and services so we could be less concerned about the Chinese market.
China has a larger market than the US. As long as we have free markets, the desires of the larger market will win out.
Too bad nobody has any ideas for how to create a market to compete with China, right? Like, One Billion ideas?
Related to this but in a much less confrontational way. Is it not necessarily China’s fault but the fault of the Hollywood-China synthesis that movies are now... mostly bad? And by bad, I don’t mean not entertaining, but just rather overly colossal and Marvelized.
Douthat made this point in the NYT. That the idea that you have to sell movies to the entire world makes more Godzilla vs. Kong (actually the 4th sequel to “Godzilla” in 2014, and about the millionth iteration of the genre) and less good buddy comedies, rom-coms, and culture specific films.
Great post, Matt. 100% agree that a great place to start is, as you say, some boring, old fashioned congressional hearings on the issue. The stance that the US government is taking on a shipment of Uniqlo products that Fast Retailing is unable to convincingly show were not produced with slave labour inputs, though not dealing directly with the free speech problem you discuss here, is also an avenue to force large companies to deal proactively and constructively with Chinese abuses.
I would like to submit that another potential remedy for this problem is to aggressively enforce antitrust laws and break these massive conglomerates up. If these companies weren't so large and embedded so deeply into every aspect of our lives, the damage of any single cowardly decision to kowtow to China would be far less meaningful. Equally, a multitude of smaller businesses would likely not be as leveraged to the Chinese market and thus less likely to toe the CCP line.
Thanks for the post.
Boosters made rosy promises about engagement because that’s what boosters do. I concede that China is a sophisticated surveillance state that has a shitty effect upon Western speech. It does not follow that engagement was bad.
China has done much better in the 32 years after Tiananmen then in the 40 years before it. Rather than mass famines and the great leap forward we’ve had a quintupling of per capita income, sharp increases in life expectancies, and less total violence (public and private) than in Latin America. Clinton’s prediction that integration would unleash Chinese human potential and curb the power of state enterprise was correct. China has 4x our population, so the material conditions of Chinese is orders of magnitude more important than its effects upon the speech of Western celebrities and the possibility Apple Store managers might self censor their tweets.
Furthermore, integration has made a new hot or cold war much less likely. Both sides have a strong material interest in peace. Neither side can cut off trade without wrenching sacrifices. The U.S. has a much better, safer relationship with China than it had with the USSR or than the Austro-Hungarian Empire had with Russia. Avoiding a war that would certainly be bloody and could go nuclear is orders of magnitude more important than the ability of those who want to work for conglomerates to tweet about the Uighurs and Hong Kong.
I like the idea of Congressional hearings. Breaking up media conglomerates would not only to stiffen our resistance to Chinese soft power, but also keep the marketplace of ideas from turning into a dreary oligopoly.
My point is that engagement has probably been a net positive even though China remains a surveillance state and increasingly pisses on Western free speech.
I really like visiting China. The buzz and upward energy of the young professionals in the cities is very contagious. It’s really unfortunate that Chinese leadership has made such a hard turn towards more authoritarianism and nationalism. It’s a beautiful place with a great culture.
I keep saying it: this is more important than Israel Palestine.
I got banned from China for the aristocrats
Google took the non-slippery slope hard line with China when they pulled most of their products out of the market. I wonder if Matt has been to China — it’s a truly surreal experience when suddenly none of your Google searches, Maps, etc work anymore.
"So far, we don’t know about China monitoring the Twitter feeds of obscure actors and complaining about random things they’ve said."
The recent row over Nomadland director Cloe Zhao could be illustrative. China got angry at her for some random quote about there being "lies everywhere" in her home country which could affect the rollout of her upcoming MCU film The Eternals.
It's really interesting how completely '90s free traders failed to imagine the consequences of what would happen when the Chinese economy began to approach in size the American economy. Once you hit that point, our corporations need the Chinese much more than the Chinese need our corporations and the consequences you described follow.
Now that I say that, I bet they in their wildest dreams didn't think the Chinese market would eclipse the US market in like two decades.
I also hate to say it, but one of the most plausible ways out of our polarization is a cold war with China.
Your paragraph clarifying that you don’t want a war (shooting or cold) with China reminds me of a frustrating tendency on the Left to take any criticism of China as “oh the US is trying to manufacture consent for a war.” Freddie DeBoer actually had a post where he said “your government is laying the groundwork for an actual war with China.” It’s depressing for a few reasons: it suggests that the Left has lost its former capacity for internationalism (with the exception of Palestine, I guess), and it suggests that either we’ve greatly over-learned the lesson of Iraq (now *that* was a government laying a groundwork for war; the China thing looks nothing like it), or that those who got Iraq right did so out of pure dumb luck, and their vindication on that point prevents them from learning to make distinctions.
It's not just people in the entertainment business who have been affected. Remember that two fans were kicked out of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia for showing "Free Hong Kong" signs at a game with a Chinese team. https://edition.cnn.com/2019/10/09/us/nba-fan-hong-kong-ejected-trnd/index.html