"The CCP is essentially depriving Americans of their free speech rights – not in China, but on American soil – as a condition of doing business over there." Billionaire tech investor David Sacks recently summed up the state of Communist Chinese intimidation of American business, sports leagues like the NBA, and anyone else with commercial interests in China. Pictured: Sacks speaks at a conference on September 13, 2016 in San Francisco. (Image source: TechCrunch/Flickr CC by 2.0)
Billionaire tech investor David Sacks recently summed up the present state of Communist Chinese intimidation of American business, sports leagues like the NBA, and anyone else with commercial interests in China. He sees it getting worse, not better.
Appearing on a podcast hosted by former Fox News anchor and NBC talk show host Megyn Kelly, Sacks was asked to address the backlash against his friend, Chamath Palihapitiya, for saying "no one cares" about repression and ethnic cleansing of the Uyghurs by China's communist regime. Sacks told Kelly he accepts his friend's later explanation that his words simply came out wrong. But Sacks's larger response to the question of Chinese intimidation really hit the nail on the head:
"The CCP is essentially depriving Americans of their free speech rights – not in China, but on American soil – as a condition of doing business over there."
Americans are now familiar with the sad spectacle of their own countrymen bowing to Chinese pressure publicly. We see it done by captains of industry, Wall Street's largest firms, the most elite universities, sports heroes, cultural figures, and politicians alike. It has become so common that it is news when someone instead resists the pressure from Chinese communist regime and suffers financially because of it.
The latest example of that is professional basketball player Enes Kanter Freedom, who was recently traded by the Boston Celtics to the Houston Rockets, which then promptly waived him. The Rockets have offered no reason for this move, but it is no secret that the team has a devoted following in and makes a lot of money from China. The Rockets were, you may remember, the team whose general manager, Daryl Morey, ran afoul of China's regime after he tweeted support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong in 2019. His public statement angered Beijing, which banned sales of all Rockets merchandise and took NBA shows off the air until the team and the league came to heel. Morey stepped down from his job with the team a year later.
Sacks is deeply concerned about China's malevolent influence in the world. Not just the regime's persecution of the Uyghurs, but their theft of American intellectual property and cyber espionage, their belligerent relations with their neighbors and treatment of dissidents, the "social credit system" they impose on their people and, of course, their actions related to the COVID pandemic.
Still, he understands the pressures Americans are subjected to by the regime. "People's willingness to speak out about these issues tends to be related to how much business they have in China. I have no business in China, so I feel fairly unencumbered in saying what I just said. But there are a lot of people who do business in China who just won't speak out. Everyone understands that the quid pro quo of taking Chinese cash is that you never criticize them."
My latest book, Red Handed: How American Elites Get Rich Helping China Win, traces these themes across many areas of American life, and tracks with Sacks's observations. The best-selling book has received notice in the press for its revelation that Joe Biden's family made $31 million in deals with individuals connected directly to Chinese intelligence. That was in one chapter. Subsequent chapters investigate the actions and statements of powerful figures from Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and elite academia, among other targets. It is surprising how little attention those chapters have received in mainstream news outlets, apart from Fox News.
Highlighted are detailed actions and pro-Beijing statements of financial giants such as Larry Fink and Ray Dalio, who run BlackRock and Bridgewater Associates, respectively. An entire chapter catalogs similar kowtowing from Big Tech by Silicon Valley's wealthiest CEOs, including Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cooke, and Bill Gates. From political dynasties in the US and Canada to philanthropists and Harvard professors, from sports stars to movie actors, the Chinese money talks so loudly it drowns out every other sound.
Alex Marlow of Breitbart News recently appeared on The Drill Down, and our topic quickly turned to how these same economic strings affect the largest media companies in this country as well. Marlow said he believes in "following the money," and he applied that lens to researching his own new book.
All of the large news outlets are part of corporations that owe large parts of their revenue streams to their business interests in China. "News conglomerates do not want to cover bad news about China. But it's not because of a grand conspiracy theory. It's simply because they make so much money," he said.
Indeed, it is hard to feel sorry for NBC's sports broadcasting business, which has seen viewership of its exclusive Beijing Olympics coverage plummet by 50 percent because of various boycotts and ill feelings against the Chinese Communist hosts, turncoat American athletes who are competing under the Chinese flag, and a visual spectacle that looks like something out of "The Hunger Games."
NBC, Marlow explained, is part of NBCUniversal, which is in turn owned by Comcast. Thus, they are not only the corporate sponsor of the "Genocide Games," but day to day make a lot of money in China from Universal Studios and its associated theme park there. ABC News is owned by Disney, which makes huge amounts of money in China through its theme parks and other entertainment businesses. CNN's parent is AT&T, which last year allegedly lobbied the US Commerce Department on behalf of China Telecom over a sanctions measure related to human rights violations by the Chinese.
Even smaller media outlets such as The Atlantic Monthly and Axios aren't immune, he notes in his book. Both are owned by Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs's widow, whose fortune came from Apple and Disney, two companies that owe a lot of their wealth to their business activities in China.
Michael Bloomberg, whose financial news empire has made him $50 billion, "has the most access [in China] of any major media conglomerate, and it's totally at the will of Beijing's propagandists," Marlow said. "Bloomberg News has to extend its contract every two years, so he goes over there to kiss the ring."
As Sacks noted, he has no business interests in China and can risk speaking out. NBC and others whose corporate paymasters owe massive percentages of their annual sales revenue to Chinese indulgences are not so free. What they can excuse for the sake of not offending their Chinese hosts and benefactors, they excuse or minimize. What they can ignore, they ignore.
How much longer will our large media outlets ignore the growing threat Chinese influence poses to their core principles of presenting the truth without fear or favor?
As Albert Camus, wrote, "The Welfare of the people... has always been the alibi of tyrants... giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience."
Peter Schweizer, President of the Governmental Accountability Institute, is a Gatestone Institute Distinguished Senior Fellow and author of the new book, Red Handed: How American Elites are Helping China Win.