What Will Happen If a GM Employee Criticizes China?
The issue of China’s totalitarian government intimidating American businesses into silence over protests in Hong Kong and human rights violations in China has come to the fore, with three nearly simultaneous incidents. The National Basketball Association didn’t quite censure the Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey for tweeting “fight for Freedom” and “stand with Hong Kong,” but league commissioner Adam Silver’s attempts to mollify Xi JinPing’s regime, to preserve the NBA’s profitable ventures in China, have been described as craven. E-gaming company Blizzard Activision, which is 4.9-percent owned by the Chinese Tencent company, stripped a tournament champion of his title and winnings and banned him for a year for expressing support for Hong Kong in a post-event broadcast. When the animated South Park comedy show satirized censorship in China, the Chinese government simply erased South Park from the Chinese internet as though it never existed. On that side of the great firewall of China, South Park has become like Nikolai Yezhov.
To their everlasting credit, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, South Park’s creators, unlike the NBA and Blizzard Activision, didn’t kowtow, instead releasing an “apology” that mocked both Chinese government censors and the NBA.
It’s abundantly clear that China will use the threat of punishing American companies by restricting access to the Chinese market in order to exert intimidating influence here in the United States.
What does that have to do with cars?
Few western industries are as involved in China as automakers are. Of the domestic American companies, General Motors is particularly invested in China, with its joint ventures there making an important contribution to GM’s global sales numbers. One of those ventures builds the Buick Envision SUV for the American market. China does not allow foreign businesses to operate there without a Chinese partner, whereas Chinese enterprises, including those tied to the Chinese Communist Party or the Peoples Liberation Army, can 100-percent own American companies.
Since it is now obvious that the Chinese regime will use business entanglements with American enterprises to try and censor criticism of China in the U.S., the question must be asked, what will happen when a General Motors employee openly criticizes China or expresses support for protesters in Hong Kong?
There was a time when the United Auto Workers was outspoken in international matters. The UAW exerted significant political pressure that ultimately resulted in Japanese automakers agreeing to voluntary restraints on exports to America in the 1980s.
Times have changed though. Even as the UAW’s current national strike against GM is in its fourth week, the importation of the Envision from China and GM’s use of imported parts hasn’t seemed to be an issue in the negotiations.
Still, one can safely assume that at least some of GM’s 173,000 U.S. employees in fact do support Hong Kong’s liberty and are not happy about human rights abuses in China and they might be willing to speak out. I don’t expect Mary Barra or Mark Reuss to start speaking out on behalf of Hong Kongers, but it’s within the realm of possibility that some rank and file GM employees might use social media to express criticism of Xi’s regime. The UAW does have a long history of social activism.
Last year, fearful of repercussions, the Marriott hotel chain fired a hourly employee for just “liking” a tweet that opposed China’s occupation of Tibet.
Of course it’s hypothetical, but should a GM employee speak out against China do you think that the regime and an American firm dependent on doing business with China won’t act as they have with the NBA, Activision, South Park, and Marriott?
Jeff S on Oct 10, 2019
You're correct GM is not a US company but it is not as global as it use to be. GM either will become Chinese owned or it will be broken up and parts of it will be sold off which is what has been happening to GM since 2008. How the mighty have fallen and will continue to fall.
Subuclayton on Oct 12, 2019
These car companies, eyes wide open, made a deal with the Devil and it will either cost them their corporate soul or a helluva a lot of money. But probably both. Handwriting is now on the wall. Chinese are now making cars nearly comparable to ours for much less money and foreign automakers have no long term future. There is no growth left and they still have to shut up and hand over their technology. Time to analyse future. There are other countries. It is becoming impossible to do business in China without complying to demands of evil tyrants. Suggest you quietly cut your losses and leave China. Better to do it that way than have Government shut you down. Then take a long shower. You will feel much better.
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