The NBA’s Cave to China Shows What’s at Stake in Trade War: Our National Identity

October 23, 2019 Updated: October 24, 2019


As reports indicate President Trump is on the verge of a major breakthrough in our trade negotiations with China, we must recognize that this struggle has the power to determine the future of our culture and our values.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping appears ready to stop escalating the dispute and return to a posture of good-faith negotiation of a genuinely fair deal that addresses his country’s abusive trade practices. The eagerness with which Beijing has agreed to this reset shows how perilous China’s economic situation has become and how much its leaders fear an assertive trade stance by an American leader.

The Chinese state-run media is enthusiastically cheering the truce, and it’s easy to see why. At a time when the strong and growing American economy continues to add jobs at a breakneck pace, the Chinese economy is losing millions of jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars as a result of President Trump’s strategic counter-tariffs.

The “phase one” deal is a good one from the American perspective. It leaves in place our existing tariffs, which are simultaneously giving American industry a leg up and punishing China for its illegal trade practices, but freezes the next round of tariff increases that had been scheduled to take effect next week. Meanwhile, China has agreed to make substantial agricultural purchases that will benefit American farmers, the group hit hardest by China’s retaliatory tariffs.

Even more significantly, Beijing has pledged to strengthen intellectual property protections and reduce restrictions on foreign financial services. Even if China’s leaders were to renege on those promises, merely acknowledging the validity of America’s complaints in those areas is a major concession, and a clear sign that our president is patiently outmaneuvering the Chinese negotiators.

Finally, after nearly two years of incessant hand-wringing over a “trade war” and slavish devotion to a free-trade fundamentalism that insists Americans must accept whatever China throws at them, there is also a grudging recognition among President Trump’s critics that something is very wrong with our trade relationship with China. Even arch-free trader Paul Krugman is starting to acknowledge that the unbridled globalization of the 1990s and 2000s, which made so much money for American and Chinese elites, might not have been the best deal for American workers.

Recent events, however, show that there is far more at stake than just dollars and cents. Our very national identity hangs in balance. There’s no other way to describe the threat represented by the growing subservience of our “American” corporate culture to Chinese totalitarian tastes.

Americans are almost universally horrified by the Chinese government’s crackdown on the democratic, self-governing territory of Hong Kong. We are also almost universally baffled by the National Basketball Association’s decision to ruthlessly enforce the Chinese Communist Party’s propagandistic version of events.

The NBA silenced Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey after he tweeted his support for the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters. Then the league did something far worse. Instead of merely censoring employees on behalf of the Chinese government, the NBA did it to ordinary Americans, confiscating signs supporting Hong Kong, free speech, and core American democratic values from fans — at a game in our nation’s capital.

The controversy resurfaced at the opening-night game between the Clippers and the Lakers in Los Angeles. Activists distributed thousands of t-shirts featuring the language from Morey’s tweet as fans entered the arena, but security staff were apparently able to intercept most of them. When one young fan saw himself on the jumbotron and took the opportunity to hold up one of the “stand with Hong Kong” shirts, the camera immediately panned away.

The NBA scandal is merely a highly visible manifestation of a much more pervasive phenomenon. China is flexing its economic might on behalf of tyranny, and the leaders of U.S.-based corporations are cravenly capitulating to the threat of being cut off from the Chinese market.

As long as those companies face no real consequences or pressure from Americans to stand for this country’s values and ideals, the decision is a matter of simple economics: cave to Chinese demands, sacrifice American values, and make more money.

America’s most powerful corporations are like putty in the hands of the Chinese communists. Apple, the largest company on Earth by market capitalization, censored and pulled apps used by Hong Kong’s protesters. Google and IBM are helping China build its massive, dystopian domestic censorship and surveillance system.

Even America’s billionaire class won’t stand up to China. Just witness the uncharacteristic silence of notoriously outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban regarding the Hong Kong controversy.

The shameless kowtowing of supposedly-”American” corporations to the authoritarian demands emanating from Beijing makes clear that unbridled Chinese economic influence will eventually compromise our most cherished freedoms if the American people and our elected representatives don’t make a forceful and immediate stand in defense of our country’s values.

President Trump is doing just that by taking China to task for its abusive trade practices.

Brett Velicovich is a U.S. Army veteran and author of “Drone Warrior: An Elite Soldier’s Inside Account of the Hunt for America’s Most Dangerous Enemies”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.