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Houston- We Have a Problem!

(USA Today OpEd, October 11, 2019)

Hong Kong Protest

by Stanley Chao

I tell my business clients to never give their opinions on the “3 T’s” when in China: Trump, Taiwan and Tiananmen.  Now I’ll add a couple more “no no” topics - Hong Kong, the trade war, and President Xi Jingping.  In fact, just keep it simple and stick to the 4 P’s- Price, Product, Promotion and Place.

I really don’t know what Mr. Morey was thinking.  He manages an NBA basketball team and his sole purpose is to win championships, not ponder geopolitics or promote Hong Kong’s independence.  His comments would be akin to making his opinions about Trump public.  Whether he’s pro- or anti-Trump, he’s bound to alienate half of the Rockets fan base.  He would never do that, so why make a comment about another divisive topic?

So what should the NBA and the Houston Rockets do?  Mr. Morey should resign to preserve the NBA’s billions of dollars of revenue, investments and goodwill.  I know.  It’s unfair and it’s un-American.   In America, we all have the right to express our opinions without retribution. 

But we aren’t in America when we’re part of the global economy.  This is China.  Things work differently in the middle kingdom and any China-experienced business person knows that.  Disney doesn’t share its brand name in other countries but does a joint venture in Shanghai.   Google willingly submits to Chinese censorship in exchange to do business in China, and other behemoths like General Electric, Apple and McDonalds all kowtow to the Communist Party’s whims.

If the NBA knows anything about doing business in China - and it does - Mr. Morey should slowly fade away.  Then, all this anti-NBA sentiment will likewise disappear shortly.  Ultimately, I know this leaves a bad taste for Westerners and we are so rooted in our alienable rights to speak freely.  And this is partly why Trump is fighting a trade war with China.  He wants to make a fairer playing field where Western companies can do, say and act as they wish in China.  But dare I give my opinions about Trump? 

Stanley Chao is the author of “Selling to China,” and managing director for All In Consulting, assisting western companies in China.

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