In a surprising turn of events, the Biden administration plans to show it indeed has a backbone by announcing a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics to protest China’s genocide of Uygur Muslims in the Xinjiang province.
By refusing to send any official American delegation to the Games, the U.S. government will instead send a powerful message of condemnation of China’s human rights record, which countries may quickly follow.
If they do, the next step would fall on the shoulders of major sponsors headquartered in America. Will they make an equally strong statement to provoke change?
Of course not. Projections show that 13 top-level Olympics corporate sponsors — including Coca-Cola, Visa, Airbnb, and Intel — have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to sponsor the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Human rights groups and journalists have pressed these companies to speak out against China targeting ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang for forced labor. Yet, so far, not a single one of these companies has done so.
“The customer base outside China may expect companies to make a statement or take action — whereas any such action could in turn lead to boycotts by Chinese customers in China,” Steven Fox, executive chairman of business intelligence and strategic advisory firm, told Axios.
“Companies will want to be as neutral as possible and say, ‘It’s not our place to play politics,'” Fox adds.
It’s not a company’s place to “play politics,” he says. Well, several US-based companies have no problem foraying into American politics. See Nike, AT&T, Under Armor, and the Olympic-promoting Coca-Cola for examples.
So what probably Fox meant is that major U.S. companies are afraid to make political statements against the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, whom corporate CEOs and PR execs fear. Or maybe they just enjoy the money China throws their way.
In exchange for its financial largess, the CCP demands that American corporations not only promote China positively but also cater to its demands, and companies comply to maintain a market in China.
Of all corporations with ties to China, Intel’s new chip processor competitor, Apple, is perhaps the most willing to subordinate itself to CCP demands. Recently, Apple has removed apps that Chinese authorities don’t like.
“Complying with governments’ orders is different than complying with law, especially in China, where the authorities often resort to extralegal means to muzzle the press, bloggers, activists or any dissenting voices,” Apple Censorship reports.
So credit to the Biden administration, assuming they go through with the diplomatic boycott. The statement that the U.S. plans to make against China’s inhumane treatment of Uyghurs would be significant. Unfortunately, too many U.S. corporations refuse to add to the momentum and denounce slave labor and ethnic cleansing.