What the Beijing Olympics hinted at about the future of international business
What the Beijing Olympics hinted at about the future of international business

What the Beijing Olympics hinted at about the future of international business

The smartest insight and analysis, from all perspectives, rounded up from across the web:

The Beijing Olympics were the perfect example of the “minefield” that US-China relations have become for business, Ana Swanson said in New York Times. Take the consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble. Like the 12 other leading Olympic sponsors, P&G shot heavily for a prominent position in the games that ended last weekend. But it ended up spending “even more on trying to prevent any negative fallout from being associated with China’s oppressive and authoritarian government,” by investing in a lobbying campaign to repel calls on the US government to stop buying products from Beijing Games sponsors. It shows the dilemma of doing business in both the United States and China: “What is good for business in one country is increasingly a commitment in the other.” The counter-reaction goes both ways; in the West, companies face anger from human rights groups, while those who stop operating in the country’s troubled Xinjiang region have been pillaged in China. Business groups say they are stuck between the laws of two countries. Human rights defenders say it’s just as it should be. When you’re in the trough of the Chinese Communist Party, someone says, “you have to become a pig.”

The lack of interest in human rights that Olympic sponsors have proven is truly telling, Samantha Masunaga and Sarah Parvini said in Los Angeles Times. We asked each and every one of the 13 Olympic sponsors how they felt about sponsoring the Games in the midst of the genocide in Xinjiang. Two said they do not comment or interfere in political issues. One, Intel, gave us a blanket “no comment.” And 10 – Airbnb, Alibaba, Allianz, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung, Toyota and Visa – simply did not respond. Nothing is new here. “Activists rallying for Uighur and Tibetan rights protested in the streets of San Francisco ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But the Games still took place.” Access to China “has become a ruthless excuse for companies to avoid action,” Rui Zhong said in The cable. And companies have not just stood by and tolerated Beijing’s abuses. Companies such as Coca-Cola and Nike have participated in them and have actively lobbied against US sanctions.

Companies are increasingly having to choose sides between the US and China, Eric Sayers and Ivan Kanapathy said in Foreign policy. While U.S. companies may have sponsored the Beijing Games, looking ahead will be subject to “a number of restrictions.” China may have expected the United States to curb President Trump’s confrontational approach, but in fact “the Biden administration has signaled its general agreement” with Trump’s policies. In some cases, it has even extended the Trump rules, for example by extending an investment ban “to include Chinese surveillance technology companies.” While Washington was originally focused on “defensive measures,” Congress is turning to “a more offensive agenda” that seeks to bring control of technologies back to the American shores. The next trade front may be China’s efforts to impose a “digital yuan” and gain control over electronic payments – something the United States increasingly sees as a national security issue. A Republican-controlled House of Representatives could be even more aggressive toward China, and the “traditional economic relationship between the United States and China” is set for even greater disruption.

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