After NBA affair, Silicon Valley turns against China

Business & Technology

The NBA kerfuffle seems to have been a turning point in Corporate America, at least in the tech sector. Shelly Banjo, Hong Kong correspondent for Bloomberg, just got back from a trip to the U.S. She says that “a red scare has washed over the San Francisco Bay Area” and that Silicon Valley “has decidedly turned against China.”

She wrote up her thoughts on Twitter and on the Bloomberg website. Excerpt:

At a dinner party, an executive from a big tech firm admitted to a table of a dozen people that he had barely thought about China before but now worries its approach to censorship and authoritarianism is bleeding into the U.S., posing a severe threat to America. The table nodded along.

A banker spoke of the confusion around working on financing for Chinese tech upstarts that last week got added to America’s blacklist and can no longer do business with U.S companies. A venture capitalist starting a new fund told me they now check general partners’ passports and only allow U.S. citizens to participate, excluding even Chinese citizens with U.S. green cards for fear of tripping up U.S. foreign investment prohibitions…the Silicon Valley outposts that China’s Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu use to make investments in U.S. upstarts have gone dark…

The real choice for American tech companies, venture capitalists and startups seems to have narrowed to just two options: Either take China at face value and decide that as a rational business, profits matter more than any kind of moral high ground, or make a conscious decision to stop pursuing business in a country that will require you to adhere to its viewpoints inside — and outside — its borders.

Related: Basketball superstar LeBron James has been condemned as a bootlicker by the sports press and on social media after he criticized Daryl Morey — the Houston Rockets general manager whose tweet set off the firestorm — for not being “educated on the situation at hand.” He has since said he’ll no longer talk about the situation; as Deadspin notes: “The point LeBron seems to want to make, more than any other, is that Morey wasn’t sufficiently invested in the conflict between Hong Kong protesters and the authoritarian Chinese government to call down this level of chaos on the entire league and everyone in it.”

Hongkongers — of course — protested in reaction, burning LeBron James sweaters.

Meanwhile, another NBA player, the Boston Celtics’ Enes Kanter — who has waged a personal battle against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkish government, and who we suspected might be on the side of Hong Kong protesters in this one — responded adjacently by tweeting “freedom is not free”: