“International discourse power”

Bill Bishop weighs in on NBA-gate:

The NBA has leverage in China, if it works as a united front. PRC fans, sponsors, web sites and broadcasters can shun one team, but they can not and will not shun an entire league. Do you really think those fans are going to be satisfied watching CBA games? There would be a social stability cost to banning the NBA in China. I am serious.

This NBA episode may backfire on Beijing here in the US as there is bipartisan outrage. That said, given the DC news cycle Commissioner Silver will likely remain much more worried about CCP Commissars than the US Congress.

The broader context for this crisis is that the CCP has long pushed to increase its “international discourse power 国际话语权“, and as with many things its efforts have intensified under Xi. The idea is that China’s share of international voice is not commensurate with its growing economic, military and cultural power and that the Party should have much more control over the global discussion of all things Chinese, in any language, anywhere.

The Party is taking at least a two-track approach to rectifying this problem. On the one hand it is launching, buying, co-opting and coercing overseas media outlets. On the other it uses the power of the Chinese market to co-opt and coerce global businesses, their executives and other elite voices. The Global Times summed up the second track nicely:

The biggest lesson which can be drawn from the matter is that entities that value commercial interests must make their members speak cautiously. Chinese consumers are not overly sensitive. Wherever it is, touching a raw political nerve is extremely risky. Morey has neither the IQ nor the EQ to talk about political topics. He will become an example of clumsiness on some MBA courses.

I must admit I find the patronizing rhetoric of Chinese state media to be greatly entertaining. “He will become an example of clumsiness on some MBA courses” is a powerful dig.

China’s attempts to police foreign discourse about it have also hit a rough patch in central Europe:

Prague’s decision to end its sister-city agreement with Beijing reflects “tangible anger” in the Czech Republic over the president’s pro-China policies, analysts say.

The Prague city council voted on Monday to pull out of the partnership deal after mayor Zdenek Hrib’s unsuccessful bid to get Beijing to remove a “one China” pledge from the agreement. He argued that the pledge – confirming Beijing’s sovereignty over Taiwan – was a political matter and unsuitable for inclusion in the sister-city deal because it was a cultural arrangement.

The decision, which still needs approval from the city assembly, was understood to have prompted heated exchanges between Chinese diplomats and Czech officials.

One Czech diplomat told the South China Morning Post on Tuesday that they had stressed it was a city-level decision.

It’s almost as if angrily demanding pledges of loyalty from everyone in the world is a suboptimal strategy for winning friends and influencing people. The Czechs are starting to wake up, apparently, and so are Americans.

3 thoughts on ““International discourse power”

  1. Here is the latest on the NBA: One person wrote one tweet in support of the Hong Kong protesters and the fallout is “Tencent, which has a five-year streaming deal with the NBA in China worth $1.5 billion, from announcing that it would not air Rockets games until further notice. Chinese online stores pulled Rockets merchandise from their websites, and the Chinese Basketball Association, headed by national icon and former Rockets star Yao Ming, announced it was suspending cooperation with the team.” It is time for the whole world to start voting its conscience. The list of countries that have banned or blocked visits by the Dalai Lama to appease China is sickening. Corporations that have knowingly shared data with China. ” Versace and Gap have also apologized in recent months over products that inadvertently questioned Chinese sovereignty.” It’s time. Stand up. The Hong Kong protesters are right. The Dalai Lama is right. Taiwan is NOT PART OF CHINA and has the right to self-determination. And the US is allowed to host the president of any country it wishes.

    • The fallout is pretty insane, but not all that surprising to anyone who has been paying attention to China’s growing clout. It’s funny that Noah Smith (Bloomberg Opinion writer) seems genuinely shocked to learn of all the American companies doing pro-China censorship: https://twitter.com/Noahpinion/status/1181974464516374528

      It is time for the whole world to start voting its conscience.

      Don’t hold your breath. Not a single Muslim country joined the West in condemning China’s actions against the Uighurs in Xinjiang, whereas a dozen Muslim states signed a letter defending Beijing. Americans should stand up for their freedom of speech – and not just when China is the censor – but there is no reason to think that anyone outside the Western alliance gives a quantum of a damn about China’s internal policies, Hong Kong, or the continuing standoff between the ROC and PRC. I’m not sure the US should, either. We need to focus on decoupling from China and becoming self-sufficient so we can stop worrying about this nonsense.

      • Yeah almost every follow up article now has a list of American companies that supported China. It is time for the boycotts to begin!

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