October 1, 2019 was the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. This is a month we’ll remember, because Xi’s China has just begun an open attack on our elite corporations—and particularly our most prestigious entertainment businesses—with the purpose of humiliating influential people into silencing us when it comes to China. Our political dignity is in question, we might prove we are cowards when faced with Chinese demands.
Until recently, it used to be mostly a few Marxists who hated capitalism—America had proved superior in 1989, when capitalism triumphed over Marxism. Globalization was supposed to make the world liberal and capitalist. But events have unfolded in surprising ways.
We are, of course, not just in a conflict with China when it comes to democracy, capitalism, and the economy. We are first of all divided among ourselves over woke capital. Recently, social conservatives learned that many corporations hate them. Last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about the vast power of the corporations they run to promote social justice and stamp out “hate speech” and conspiracy theorizing. This same paragon of social justice studiously avoids any discussion of why Chinese workers who build Apple’s products might be committing suicide in the very factories where they work.
So long as it was anti-Trump and anti-border, woke capital’s version of social justice could be an alliance between rich liberals and the Chinese concentration camps. Nobody even talked about the NBA running an Academy in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, starting in 2016, where some kind of ethnic cleansing was being planned and, since 2017, is being executed. It went over easy, because liberals, especially the media, love Apple and the NBA, and they love their woke dividends even more.
It was alright that Apple cares as much about the Chinese Communist Party as they do their American customers—the Communist Party is rich, powerful, and to be feared. Woke capital could be slavish in China while being haughty and contemptuous to certain Americans in America.
Under that arrangement, the NBA might punish conservatives by taking an All-Star Game away from Charlotte for reasons of wokeness, but it would get to brag about its great future—unlike that of social conservatives, these relics of the reactionary past—by expansion into China, where it has become very popular. Wokeness might serve capital, and capitalism would defend wokeness from Christians, since North Carolina’s GDP is puny compared to China!
Well, the Chinese Communist Party, the main beneficiary of that version of woke capital, just destroyed it with a few simple decisions to ban entertainment. It banned South Park from China because last week the show mocked Disney’s slavish attitude, and American capitalism’s more broadly. Matt Stone and Trey Parker exposed liberal pieties through comedy—they showed that our entertainment capitalism paints moralistic woke pictures of freedom-loving heroes while bowing to a regime that enslaves millions simply because they’re Muslims.
South Park taught a brief lesson in political economy through dramatization: The House of Mouse is okay with the enslavement of an entire race, the Uighurs, because it’s in love with the Chinese market. Probably Disneyland Shanghai would find it in bad taste to celebrate enslavement, but maybe it’s just a matter of time. You can be sure, however, of utter silence from these same companies about freedom protests like those happening in Hong Kong, which Google has conveniently censored in China.
The Chinese Communist Party also banned the Houston Rockets, the second most popular NBA team in China, because its general manager tweeted support for the Hong Kong freedom protests. The NBA might assert transgender bathroom access to be a moral imperative of social justice, but it demanded various abject apologies from the Rockets’ manager, who deleted his tweet, and also from Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook. How dare free American citizens say something in favor of political freedom?
The NBA loves its revenue growth in China, and China, in return, doesn’t demand that the NBA make statements to the effect that people in Hong Kong should be enslaved, like the Uighurs. However, the NBA must refrain from saying that Hong Kongers are nobly fighting for their freedom. No famous player, coach, or owner has dared utter a word in disagreement.
The most popular team in China is, of course, the NBA-dominant Golden State Warriors. The outspoken coach, Steve Kerr, has behaved like a coward—he needs an education before he can speak, he says. So also the brash and charming Steph Curry, who talks about how little he’s impressed with President Trump! Behold men who claim principles, seriousness, and self-respect suddenly acting not like heroes, not with swagger or indignation, but with embarrassment at their own fear. Behold China’s might, the humbler of champions! Trump of course humiliated Kerr and others on national TV, but what does that change?
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver tried to defend free speech in an adequately slavish way to the Chinese Communist Party, but this failed to placate anyone. Remember, Xi Jinping has had Winnie the Pooh banned in China, since some Chinese people compared the powerful tyrant to the cute cartoon. Fear is necessary and it has to be almost holy.
So this piece of bad luck—one unpremeditated tweet quickly deleted—has revealed a vast political conflict. To appease China, the NBA is now enforcing silence on Americans on our soil—throwing paying customers out at a recent 76ers game or taking their signs away in Washington. This is the pluperfect example: During the national anthem, officials removing a freedom sign from paying customers in order to enforce slavishness to the Chinese Communist Party!
The point the Chinese Communist Party is trying to make through these incredible, ham-handed, and vulgar gestures is that shocking and vulgar gestures are the only ones that matter. That success and money don’t count in the way power does—and that China is superior because power controls money there. Humiliating American businessmen is a political act to Xi, however much the Americans he is humiliating pretend otherwise.
The funniest thing is that both Disney and the NBA are corporations selling heroism, whether the virtues of the basketball players or the heroic virtues in movies. In these entertainments, the good guys always beat the bad guys; or at least the best guys win fair and square. In reality, these corporations might not love tyranny, but they will tyrannically ruin whoever speaks for freedom against China, making them as cowardly as South Park says.
This is un-American, unpatriotic, and it puts corporations on the wrong side of the American people. This would be a great time to start attacking the cowardice of these corporations, and to morally indict the Chinese Communist Party.