By Matthew Shanbom, Managing Editor
China is the world’s largest market with a population of 1.386 billion people. Due to this fact, many American companies have sought to sell their products in China. As China is not a free market, companies must stay in favor with the Chinese government to have their right to operate continued.
One of the biggest examples of this was in early October when Houston Rockets owner Daryl Morey tweeted in favor of the Hong Kong protesters. The NBA had been scheduled to play several preseason games in China a few days after Morey composed the tweet. The Chinese government and Tencent, the Chinese group who owns the NBA distribution rights in China, made the decision to cancel the games and not broadcast NBA games in China. This blackout has continued including not broadcasting opening night for the first time in over a decade. Even as these consequences played out, NBA commissioner Adam Silver still hoped to reach a “mutual agreement.” Former NBA players and politicians including Shaq and Ted Cruz have spoken out against the NBA for supporting what Cruz calls “tyrannical actions” in an op-ed published in USA today.
This issue is not limited to the NBA. Another American company Activision Blizzard, a video game developer and publisher, suspended a Hong Konger professional video game player for supporting Hong Kong during a post game interview. The player was suspended for a year and had all of his prize money revoked. While eventually his prize money was returned and the suspension was reduced to six months, this was still an unfair punishment for free speech. Meanwhile, an American team held up a sign saying “Free Hong Kong. Boycott Blizz.” This team received no punishments initially while the other player had received a suspension. In protest the team forfeited the rest of their matches for the season. Eventually, Blizzard punished the team with a six month suspension in line with the other player. Again, the fact that it takes an internet protest and pressure from lawmakers to make a change shows that American companies are more likely to support China than the citizens of the country they are based in.