Pence has harsher words for the NBA than for China

Foreign Affairs

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech last Thursday in Washington, D.C., on U.S.-China relations, following up on his China bash-fest from October 2018. His remarks this time were notably less a litany of complaints about China than the speech a year ago, and focused more on Trump love than China hate. In fact, some of Pence’s harshest words were reserved for the NBA and affiliated brands.

Photo credit: SupChina illustration

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech last Thursday in Washington, D.C., on U.S.-China relations, following up on his China bash-fest from October 2018

His remarks this time were notably less a litany of complaints about China than the speech a year ago, and focused more on Trump love than China hate. In fact, some of Pence’s harshest words were reserved for the NBA and affiliated brands. Here’s what Pence said:

  • “In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime.” Pence singled out Nike for pulling merchandise in response to outrage in China.
  • “When American corporations, professional sports, pro athletes embrace censorship, it’s not just wrong; it’s un-American. American corporations should stand up for American values here at home and around the world.”

Despite the sanctimonious tone, Pence’s related point is accurate: China has been “trying to export censorship” lately, as Pence claims, as many “American multinational corporations have kowtowed to the lure of China’s money and markets by muzzling…criticism of the Chinese Communist Party.”

SupChina has compiled a list of all the international companies that have apologized to China, or self-censored to maintain their market access in the country in recent years. We also have a related video going in-depth on the NBA-China controversy and American brands that have been cowed into conforming with China’s political lines.

Will the U.S. and China decouple?

The other part of Pence’s speech that attracted attention was his denial that the Trump administration wanted to “contain” China or “decouple” from it. This likely struck many in Washington, D.C., as hard to believe, for several reasons:

  • One is that other top officials, like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have recently made comments that their goal is “ensuring that China retains only its proper place in the world.”
  • Another is that Pence’s comments come right before an expected partial trade deal, so it may be seen as “merely the teaspoon of sugar that makes the medicine go down,” according to economist Patrick Chovanec.