Daryl Morey. Photo: Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images When Bill Clinton called for China’s admission into the WTO two decades ago, he argued that such economic integration wouldn’t merely bring American products to the Chinese market, but also American values to Chinese politics. “The change this agreement can bring from outside is quite extraordinary, but…


Daryl Morey. Photo: Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

When Bill Clinton called for China’s admission into the WTO two decades ago, he argued that such economic integration wouldn’t merely bring American products to the Chinese market, but also American values to Chinese politics.

“The change this agreement can bring from outside is quite extraordinary, but I think you could make an argument that it will be nothing compared to the changes that this agreement will spark from the inside out in China,” Clinton predicted in March 2000. “The more China liberalizes its economy, the more fully it will liberate the potential of its people — their initiative, their imagination, their remarkable spirit of enterprise. And when individuals have the power, not just to dream but to realize their dreams, they will demand a greater say.”

illicit access to American intellectual property) has helped China sustain its rapid growth. And that growth has expanded and enriched the nation’s fledgling middle class, while pulling tens of millions of less fortunate Chinese workers out of extreme poverty. the end of history: To this point, the economic benefits of globalization have done less to undermine China’s authoritarian government than to legitimize it. (This is not to deny that the dissonance between China’s liberal economic system and one-party state has produced real tensions and democratic movements. It is merely to acknowledge that under Xi Jinping, China has managed to grow more economically liberal and more politically autocratic simultaneously.) did. cost his team the sponsorship of both the Li-Ning shoe company and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Card Center. The Chinese Basketball Association — a federation led by former Rockets center Yao Ming — suspended its cooperation with the Houston franchise. The Rockets owner disavowed Morey’s outrageous views on the propriety of civil-rights protests. Conversations about firing Morey commenced. The general manager returned to Twitter Sunday night to assure the public that he had never intended to endorse any political struggle that might inconvenience him or his employer. October 7, 2019 October 7, 2019 call the president of the United States a “soulless coward” and its premier player to speak out against racist policing. If those divisive stances aren’t beyond the pale, why would voicing solidarity with Hong Kong — a cause endorsed by Democrats and Republicans alike — trigger a chorus of recriminations and apologies? coveted domestic demographic for both consumer-facing brands and sports leagues is young, urban-dwelling adults. And in the U.S., those consumers lean woke. Nike didn’t embrace Colin Kaepernick out of deep-seated commitment to combating structural racism. And the NBA hasn’t indulged their players’ free-speech rights on purely ideological grounds; associating itself with progressivism (or, at least, tolerance for progressivism) is a sound business proposition for the league.

But aligning itself against Chinese repression in Hong Kong is not. Basketball is the most popular sport in the world’s most populous country. There are more NBA fans in China than there are people in the United States. The NBA is poised to make $1.5 billion off its streaming agreement with Chinese media company Tencent over the next five years. The league and its ownership care a lot more about keeping that money in the bank than bringing democracy to Hong Kong.

Max Read notes, in recent years, American and European companies have made a regular habit of apologizing for their accidental contradictions of the Communist Party line. Last year, Marriott fired a social-media manager for liking a post complimenting the hotel chain for its (unintentional) endorsement of Tibetan independence. Around the same time, Mercedes-Benz issued an apology for quoting the Dalai Lama on Instagram. After learning that one of its T-shirts featured a map of China that did not include Taiwan or various disputed islands in the South China Sea, the Gap expressed its regrets and affirmed its respect for “China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Versace apologized for a similar offense in August, saying in a statement, “Versace reiterates that we love China deeply, and resolutely respect China’s territory and national sovereignty.” helping Xi Jinping to build a better surveillance state.

Of course, America does not need to import its invasive intelligence agencies or authoritarian political movements. The leading threats to democracy in this country were all born in the USA. The scarily plausible alternative to Clinton’s dream of democratizing China through free trade is not Xi imposing one-party capitalism on the U.S. through the same process. Rather, it is that our plutocratic version of liberal democracy and China’s illiberal version of state capitalism will continue converging toward the same version of kleptocracy. Former World Bank economist Branko Milanović raised this menacing hypothetical in a recent interview:

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  • global politics
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The NBA’s Censorship on Hong Kong Exposes Neoliberal Naïveté

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