About a year ago, wrestling and Hollywood tough guy John Cena apologized for calling Taiwan a “country.” The actor who beats people up on-screen and kills them from time to time traded trash-talking for putting his tail between his legs because the Chinese Communist Party says Taiwan is part of its empire — and Hollywood values the growing Chinese market more than Taiwan’s freedom.
Cena’s capitulation is old news. But as a symbol of Hollywood and U.S. corporate tough talk going silent when China snaps its fingers, it speaks volumes. And it speaks even more loudly that fans flocked to “Peacekeeper,” the new show where Cena plays a comic book assassin — because for all of the criticism leveled at businesses and individuals for kowtowing to China, it is consumers like you and me who are ultimately responsible.
The same Americans who stand for human rights on social media often abandon them to save a few bucks when something is Made in China. After decades of American consumerism building up the Chinese empire, we’re now seeing the fruits of other people’s slave labor.
Millennials are especially guilty of this hypocrisy. We are keyboard warriors on Twitter and Facebook, virtue-signaling about human rights even as we show our true colors by saving a few bucks on shoes, pants and iPhones to fund one of the world’s most heinous governments. We spend money on Coca-Cola despite its quiet sponsorship of the Olympics’ Chinese propaganda machine, and we watch NBA games even as the league puts Chinese profits over Hong Kong’s liberty.
Domestically, liberals won’t stand for the slightest microaggression against a minority, or the slightest effort to interfere with a woman’s right to choose abortion. Corporations like NBC Universal responded, threatening to pull operations after Georgia enacted a pro-life law. Delta Air Lines and the NBA likewise condemned Georgia over voter laws that allegedly discriminated against Black Americans.
Delta is the same company that apologized in 2018 after China’s Communist Party was offended by its listing of Taiwan and Tibet as separate nations. YouTube, which bans a lot of things for a lot of reasons domestically, put China’s Olympics propaganda in front of millions of people. And China’s genocide against a Muslim minority, and forced abortions targeted against unborn girls, didn’t stop NBC from signing an exclusive TV agreement for the Olympics.
Conservatives are just as hypocritical. The same people who proclaim opposition to digital spying buy iPhones from Apple and Androids from Google, despite both companies following Chinese marching orders to remove privacy protections. Conservatives support free markets until cheap products made by Chinese slaves are available. And pro-life values are wiped away when savings flash across the Chinese-produced computer or phone screen.
Stopping corporate malfeasance is quite simple, but it will require a complete change of consumer, political and social habits.
First, be a more conscientious spender. I support the free-market principle of outsourcing, but the pandemic has made me more aware of what I’m doing when buying things Made in China. I have substantial room to improve on how I spend.
Second, support government policies that will bring back domestic manufacturing and production. We can start with lowering taxes and eliminating unnecessary regulations. Businesses respond fastest to incentives, and while many companies would prefer to do business in the relatively safe, secure and predictable United States, the cost of compliance is driving them overseas.
Last, we must make China a common economic enemy with consumers who don’t see politics, values and culture the way we do. Supporters and opponents of legalized abortion should be equally outraged at China’s decades of forced abortions. Christian conservatives who prioritize religious liberty should align their wallets with liberal activists who want to protect ethnic and racial minorities. And those who disagree on the domestic definition of acceptable discourse should have a unified message against China’s Communist Party.
From Intel and Calvin Klein to carmakers and Delta, Western companies put money over ethics because Americans love cheap consumer goods more than we care about ethics. You want to blame corporations for spending billions in China and for using slave labor to make what we buy? Look in the mirror first, and then put your money where your social media post is.