It may end up costing them more than they think.
“As of today, we’re saying goodbye to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok until these platforms can provide a safer environment for their users,” the astonishing marketing email read. “The serious effects of social media on mental health are being ignored by these platforms.”
Among the many Christmas shopping emails, solicitations and sales notices, this email from the makers of Lush Bath Bombs stood out like a sore thumb.
At a time when more and more companies are clamoring more and more loudly for attention on social media, chasing that viral marketing rainbow, a successful company like Lush going in the opposite direction is worth noting.
“Character,” as Heraclitus observed two thousand years ago, “is destiny.”
Corporations have perverted that truism, as corporations often do. “Company Culture is Destiny,” motivational posters in training centers aren’t as common as others, but they do exist.
Most large corporations barely gave lip service to the idea of being “good” and didn’t give a discernible fig about “community stakeholders” until about five minutes ago. Suddenly, making the world a better place, saving the planet, ending racism, and fighting injustice is the prime directive for companies that otherwise manufacture cars, issue credit cards, and make ice cream.
Some American voters like this new trend; some less so. Whatever the case, “delivering value for company stakeholders,” which by its broadest definition includes everyone in the community, the country and the world, has quietly replaced “delivering for corporate shareholders” in recent years- at least, according to television commercials.
Whether this is a good or bad thing, for these companies and for society, remains to be seen. After all, corporations are immensely powerful, wealthy organizations capable of influencing Washington, shaping public opinion via clever advertising- with the added bonus of billion-dollar marketing budgets and little oversight.
Under the auspices of this new corporate virtue signaling, American companies are quick to take principled stands against U.S. states which run afoul of right-thinking causes.
But when the subject of China comes up, as it almost always does, everyone from progressive politicians to Wall Street to Hollywood to Silicon Valley shuts up tighter than a drum of toxic waste dropped into the Pacific Ocean by the Chinese Communist Party.
American companies are pandering to China and it is undermining all the good work they are trying to do to convince the world that they aren’t still the same unprincipled corporations for whose sake lawmakers have had to enact things like child labor laws, tobacco advertising limits and worker safety requirements as a bulwark against their cupidity.
To satisfy Chinese Communist Party censors, companies like Disney and Warner Bros. have had to sacrifice every principle they claim to hold dear. Out of one side of their mouths, they lecture on the subject of racism; out of the other side, they scrub prominent African-American actors out of promotional materials bound for China.
To keep access to the 1.4 billion-strong Chinese market, sports organizations like the NBA and the Women’s Tennis Association have had to bear witness to the human rights violations of young Chinese athletes.
Tech companies who claim to care about the social good are using their influence on Capitol Hill to fight restrictions against forced labor in China.
American companies are pandering to the Chinese Communist Party and they should stop.
Alienating American consumers- including so many who are increasingly aware of how they spend their dollars, and how the companies they buy from spend their dollars- is not a viable long term strategy for a simple reason.
However attractive the Chinese market for American products- plus the corresponding cheap labor and lower production costs of Chinese-made goods that has helped the wealthiest companies in the world get that way- it won’t last.
Xi Jinping- and since he has eliminated term limits, his successor Xi Jinping- has consolidated power in China. It is now every bit as competitive from a military perspective as its geopolitical rivals, perhaps more so.
Hong Kong is handled. Coincidentally no doubt, COVID-19 lock-downs- ostensibly for public safety- did what People’s Liberation Army tanks could not have done- at least, not without provoking pushback from trading partners.
The Hong Kong democracy movement is now functionally dead in the water. It is now illegal to even run as a pro-democracy candidate in Hong Kong. Taiwan is next and every international policy expert knows it, not least of all those living in Taiwan.
There is only one thing that threatens the power of Xi Jinping; one thing that must keep him up nights. It is the one thing he can’t buy with China’s trillions, or obtain via corporate espionage, or twist to his advantage using the CCP’s vast content farm and the PLA’s information warfare machine.
It is the one and only thing that allows thousands of people to govern over 1.4 billion and Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party don’t have it.
The consent of the governed.
If Jinping and the CCP had the consent of the governed, they wouldn’t need the most advanced, expensive and comprehensive surveillance state the world has ever known. The CCP wouldn’t need a great firewall to prevent Chinese citizens from accessing whatever information they want, as citizens in free countries are able to do.
That the CCP needs both of these things says it all. Imagine how much money has been spent. Chinese authorities can find anyone, anywhere in under 7 minutes. In fact there is no need to imagine it; it was American tech companies who made it all possible, and made many large fortunes doing it.
Why would anyone’s government need to be able to find them in seven minutes?
The “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear” crowd, lacking history books in their ivory towers, can’t see the problem in this.
Everyone else knows that it becomes a problem when stamping out political dissent gets rebranded as “maintaining social order for the public good.”
The CCP has to maintain the tightest control over the Chinese population. For this reason, China’s currently cozy relationship with Hollywood and American sports must soon come to an end.
Since the Chinese people are the only real threat to the power of the CCP, convincing them away from the not-insignificant benefits of democracy and capitalism is paramount.
Today, CCP censors want Black actresses scrubbed from movie posters and male video game characters who conform to a stereotypically masculine archetype; tomorrow will be something worse.
Increasingly, the CCP is reaching beyond its borders to chill free speech in other nations, including the U.S. However successful they are, it will never be enough.
Today, American companies are being asked to tolerate cultural genocide, ethnic cleansing, slave labor, Chinese athletes and business people who sometimes disappear after displeasing the CCP, environmental destruction, lack of access to a pandemic epicenter, corporate espionage, and more.
Tomorrow it will be something else. Someday very soon, it will all end. Not because the CCP will ask for something American companies won’t do out of moral objections, but because the CCP will cut off access to American movies, American sports, American entertainment- period.
Xi Jinping will never be able to control these products rigorously enough to prevent western ideals like democracy, free speech, free assembly, and capitalism from seeping into Chinese society.
In China, from the perspective of the Chinese Communist Party leaders in total control of the nation and all its people, nothing can be allowed to compete with the power of The Party.
Not religion, not political dissent, and certainly not Disney movies.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)