OPINION: A little trouble in big China

Talk isn’t always cheap.

The National Basketball Association has learned this the hard way over the past two weeks after a seven-word tweet supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong by the general manager of the Houston Rockets has torn a gash in a billion-dollar relationship.

From severed broadcast and sponsorship deals to the canceling of events and the silencing of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the members of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets during their exhibition trip to their communist trade partner, a glaring spotlight was placed on a league that prides itself on its social awareness and progressive values.

What we’ve discovered since the posting and deletion of GM Daryl Morey’s Hong Kong statement roiled the mainland — the Rockets have been China’s adopted “home” team since 7-foot-6 Yao Ming roamed the courts for that team for his entire career — is that the willingness to “speak truth to power” stops for many members of the NBA from its owners to its players where their bank accounts begin.

For years, Hollywood has been altering movies and plots to avoid offending the communist censors of China in order to access the population of more than 1.3 billion and its growing middle class.

The NBA’s relationship with China has certainly been a more benign one. Sports have long been a unifying force around the world where political differences can be set aside for the common love of a game. Unlike Google or Apple, the NBA’s relationship with China doesn’t contribute to the oppression of the people and a strengthening of the police state.

But now that members of the NBA have been asked where they stand, statements have ranged from none at all to the more egregious examples of Golden State coach Steve Kerr using the question to attack gun ownership in the U.S. — nevermind China has the kind of gun control many on the progressive left are seeking — and superstar LeBron James criticizing the timing of Morey’s tweet and his apparent disregard for how it would impact the league financially.

President Trump’s two-year trade war with China has had a wide-ranging impact on both nations’ economies, including right here in Alaska with our seafood industry seeing exports fall to what was the state’s No. 1 trade partner.

While our Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have generally been supportive of Trump’s efforts to end decades of acquiesce to China’s rise, there have also been frequent calls to attempt to hold our industry harmless as this long overdue correction takes place.

Even as many companies have begun pulling out of China to avoid tariffs, Alaska’s seafood industry partners — perhaps believing Trump would eventually cave — haven’t followed suit in shifting the reprocessing of state products to other nations.

Wall Street rises and falls based on every development in this trade fight with no concern for China’s human rights record so long as global economic growth continues apace.

Rebalancing this relationship, and weakening a communist rival who aims to supplant the U.S. and extend its control of free speech around the world through economic means, is vital to our interests.

For a nation that has paid vast sums of blood and treasure since its founding to defend these values, temporary economic pain is a bill we must be willing to pay.

Inexpensive labor, ticket sales and market access aren’t worth sacrificing the things that make us the freest nation on earth.

Just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it won’t come with a huge price.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected].

10/16/2019 - 10:22am