In recent years, it has become increasingly fashionable to apologize to China. Saying sorry to the Chinese Communist Party for hurting the feelings of China’s 1.4 billion people is now a rite of passage for global executives.
All the cool CEOs have done it. Just ask MGM, United Airlines, McDonald’s, Gap, Medtronic, Disney, Boeing, Cambridge University Press, Nike, Apple, Audi, Intel, Versace, Coach, Givenchy, Dior, Calvin Klein, or the NBA. Just to name a few.
Or ask Isaac Stone Fish. He just penned a brilliant new book, America Second: How America’s Elites Are Making China Stronger, which details what’s been going on.
“In sophisticated ways, Beijing persuades, cajoles, and cudgels some American companies, institutions, and individuals to promote the values of the Party, parrot the Party’s views, and enshrine self-censorship about China in their corporate and individual cultures,” Stone Fish writes. “A pattern of acceptance of Chinese influence has emerged, with variance more in degree than direction.”
The globalization-conscious billionaires out there will know exactly what Stone Fish is talking about. But what if you are one of those rare titans of industry, technology, and commerce who hasn’t been invited to join the Kowtow Club? Well, let me tell you, there’s absolutely no reason to worry. Sooner or later, one of your liberty loving employees will undoubtedly exercise their so-called “right” to free speech and get you in hot water with China’s government.
This, of course, is nothing to fear. Embrace your inner servant leader. For once in your power saturated life, relish the opportunity to be meek and deferential. All of your friends, employees, and yacht captains respect and fear you. But we all know that, deep-down inside, every big dog wants to get kicked at least once. There’s something sublime about that moment of painful clarity when you discover who your true master is.
Sure, in certain circumstances, public groveling may significantly affect your self-worth and damage your reputation. Hollywood muscleman John Cena looks considerably weaker after that video he posted professing his love for Communist China and regret for accurately calling Taiwan a country.
And perhaps Marriott International feels a tinge of remorse for firing Roy Jones, an American employee in Nebraska who “liked” a Dalai Lama tweet. It was, after all, Roy’s job to “like” positive tweets (and the steady income was probably vital to his health and well-being). But let’s be real, Marriott has better things to do than train every single one of its estimated 120,000 employees in the finer points of authoritarian self-censorship.
If you are like Marriott, you know that in the midst of a financially uncomfortable confrontation, a well-crafted apology can deliver healing, peace, and profound stress relief. You also know that by terminating an innocent dude on your team, Beijing will know you are truly sincere.
And who are we to judge? Compromise is important, especially when you just can’t wait to do more trade with what the US State Department calls a genocidal regime. Time to get back to cashing those checks with lots of zeros and commas to the left of the decimal point, baby!
Abstract ideas like morals, ethics, and integrity were all good and well in the American-led 20th century. But this, my friends, is the China-dominated 21st century. It’s time for us in the West to get pragmatic and learn how sweet it feels like to be at the mercy of an exploitative foreign overlord.
In that spirit, I have decided to issue my own apology to China. Yes, I am a small fry. And no, I don’t claim to be an equal to the rich and famous Americans who usually have the honor and privilege of apologizing to the “Butchers of Beijing”. Nonetheless, I do know I’m guilty of political thought crimes.
I did, in fact, write a book that remains banned in China: The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia. I know that I caused some hurt feelings in the Party because Xinhua, the official mouthpiece of China’s government, pilloried me an “idiot” and “retard.” The wonderfully patriotic defender of China’s one-Party dictatorship, Global Times, had less polite things to say.
I deny nothing. Indeed, I freely admit to my errors, mistakes, and shortcomings. Moreover, I have a bigger confession to make. You see, I have done this thing, which I’m going to tell you about, so you hear it from me first.
I have recently completed a new book that is, well … perhaps inappropriate from a certain point of view. I may have accidentally spent hundreds of hours reading and analyzing the works of Chairman Xi Jinping (習近平), and written things that might be considered embarrassing for his government.
It’s not my fault. There were certain leaked documents that somehow came into my possession (after I spent months searching for them). And, as an American researcher engaged in the business of public education, I felt obligated to make China’s strategic plans and intentions slightly more transparent than they were before.
So, to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (and to all the oppressed Chinese people you claim to speak for), I’m sorry about what I did. I hope it won’t be too much trouble for you to censor my new book and wage a propaganda campaign to discredit me. I know I deserve it.
But, on second thought, are these really even serious, apology-worthy issues? Arguably, no foreigner’s words could disturb the mighty Center. Surely, China’s rulers are not that thin-skinned. They can permit an alternative viewpoint every now and again, right?
If I supplicate myself and beg for mercy, will PRC government officials allow the Chinese people a chance to read my new book and decide for themselves what to think?
Well, it sure can’t hurt to try. Just think of the potential royalties!
So, I’m sorry China. Really. Super duper sorry. For, you know, everything.
Ian Easton is a senior director at the Project 2049 Institute and author of the forthcoming book, The Final Struggle: Inside China’s Global Strategy (Camphor Press, 2022).
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