The Trump presidency has done more to make us talk about China than the country itself. His campaign for the 2016 general election, especially the part about manufacturing jobs disappearing from the rust belt, used China as a punching bag.
The Trump administration’s relationship with China has also been frosty. The US-China trade war and Trump tariffs deepened divisions between DC and Beijing. Before the pandemic, the United States and China were in the throes of the trade war.
For his part, Trump did promise the country and his base that he won’t be easy on China during his campaign. There is a good progressive argument on how neo-con and neo-liberal presidents allowed China to adopt a mercantilist approach and take away jobs from the United States. The opioid crisis, which ripped apart the rust belt and the Midwest, was exacerbated by China.
The Chinese government insists there has been no cover-up on the coronavirus which first originated in a Wuhan, a province in China. However, they refuse to allow any independent inquiry into the origins of the virus.
China Refuses to Allow Independent Inquiry
Chen Wen, a diplomat in London, said the Chinese government thinks the calls for an independent inquiry are politically motivated.
Chinese refusal to allow any form of inquiry is more serious than most people want to believe. The coronavirus is not the first pathogen from China that morphed started a deadly pandemic. The SARS pandemic in 2002-03 also came from China. An independent inquiry will be able to identify clear reasons why killer viruses germinate in China and how local outbreaks of a deadly virus can be contained in the future.
The Chinese, while asking the world to be more relaxed about trade and open borders, is paranoid about political motivations behind an independent inquiry.
The mainstream media back home is naturally more obsessed with Trump calling the COVID-19 the Chinese virus. The media for its part doesn’t want Trump to get away with his sensationally poor handling of the pandemic. However, is also important for the media to explain the petulance of China in the matter.
Not every issue can be about Trump and his role in making something good or bad. The media should understand seminal moments when they need to question those truly responsible.
However, the media is not free to question China.
Progressives are scared to talk about China because they fear being labelled as Trump sympathizers by the Establishment. This is more emblematic of the relationship between Establishment and China. The NBA-China controversy shed light on this matter.
The NBA Controversy and Chinese Control over the Establishment
On October 4 2019, Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of protestors in Hong Kong. He quickly deleted his tweet, but the damage had already been done. The Chinese establishment reacted with outrage. The Chinese Basketball Association severed all ties with the Houston Rockets. CCTV, a state-owned Chinese broadcaster, stopped airing Rockets games. Tencent, a tech behemoth in China, stopped writing and covering stories on the Rockets as well.
Later, the NBA published an apology on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. The apology said Morey comments were ‘inappropriate’.
The issue gained a political nature thereafter as several people came forward in support of Morey. Politicians on both sides of the aisle came out in support of Morey and called out the NBA for limiting Morey’s right to free speech. A few comments here and there from LeBron James made the controversy snowball into a big international story.
Eventually, all NBA partners in China severed ties with the league.
Later on, Apple removed an app from its app store which helped Hong Kong protestors track police movements.
These events gained publicity because they involve things Americans love talking about – basketball and Apple. There is, however, significant American interest in Chinese investments. While establishment politicians did come out to support Morey in public, they have passed legislation in the past years and decades that have made Americans poorer and jobless.
Progressives Need to Start Asking Questions
Progressives need to understand the deep ties between China and the Establishment. Due to large investments in China, American businesses kowtow to the authoritarian Communist Party. This is why those who think the NBA fluffed its apology are wrong. The NBA didn’t do anything they were not trying to do. They made an apology to protect their Chinese investments and maintaining engagement with the largest market in the world.
The American businesses who have stakes in Chinese enterprises also happen to be important advertisers on news networks. The media establishment naturally aligns with the agenda and makes sure nobody steps out of line.