Bending a knee towards China

Bending a knee towards China

Will intense scrutiny from the American public force companies to change their approach to political issues?

After an exhausting week of controversies, US executives could use a new China playbook. Here are some examples of businesses that are bending the knee to Beijing and far fewer are pushing back.


On Wednesday (October 16), Apple pulled Quartz’s app, which included coverage of the Hong Kong protests, from its Chinese App Store, and removed a Hong Kong mapping app, which Apple says violates both App Store policies and local laws. Apple (+1.35%) also deleted the Taiwan flag emoji for iOS 13 users in Macau and Hong Kong.

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, has spent years cozying up to China, which accounted for almost $44 billion in revenue in the year ending June 30. China also handles the majority of Apple’s manufacturing assembly.


Some foreign movie studios are catering to Beijing by promoting Chinese products and censoring any political red flags in their films. Sometimes literally. Cinema sleuths noticed that the Japanese and Taiwanese flags are missing from Maverick’s jacket in the upcoming Top Gun sequel.

Why? China’s 60k+ movie screens and 190 million+ streaming customers. Next year, it’s expected to become the largest movie-going market with at least $12.2 billion in domestic sales.


The NBA’s tiff with China comes at a time when basketball’s “never been more popular” in the country, according to the NBA’s China head.

The reason for the spat? Tremendous growth in an overseas market that’s gaga for basketball. Nearly 500 million Chinese people streamed NBA content last year (the US’ entire population is fewer than 330 million).

The Nets and Lakers played a preseason game in Shanghai yesterday, but Chinese officials stripped all media availability. “Virtually all corporate signage” was taken down in the arena, reported AP.

US companies and executives are increasingly taking stands on political issues at home (like DACA and gun control) but have largely ignored China’s free speech and human rights abuses. It remains to be seen whether intense scrutiny from the American public this week will force them to change their approaches.


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Oso Oseguera
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