Dec 2, 2021 - World

Courage vs. coddling with China

Peng Shuai

Peng Shuai of China serves during the China Open in Beijing in 2017. Photo: Andy Wong/AP

The women's professional tennis tour suspended tournaments in China Wednesday out of concern for Peng Shuai, on the same day that a top business voice made excuses for Beijing.

Why it matters: Ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Beijing, some sports figures are taking on the regime — while Big Business shrinks from confrontation with the world's second-largest economy.

What's happening: The Women's Tennis Association told AP that fears for the safety of Peng Shuai, the Chinese champion who accused a former Communist Party official of sexual assault, could result in cancellations beyond 2022.

  • WTA President and CEO Steve Simon said: "This is ... about what’s right and wrong."
  • In the NBA, the Boston Celtics' Enes Kanter, who changed his last name to "Freedom" this week after becoming a U.S. citizen, has used social media to relentlessly protest human-rights violations in China.

Contrast that with billionaire Ray Dalio — legendary investor and founder of Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund — who told Andrew Ross Sorkin yesterday on CNBC's "Squawk Box" when asked about Peng Shuai and China's human rights issues:

  • "I can't be an expert in those types of things," Dalio said. "I look to whatever the rules are."
  • "So the guidance of the government is the most important thing."

Context: The Wall Street Journal, calling Dalio a "longtime China bull," reported Nov. 24 that Bridgewater raised $1.25 billion for its third investment fund in China, making it one of the "biggest foreign managers of private funds in the world’s second-largest economy."

Dalio added on CNBC: "I look at the United States and I say: 'Well, what's going on in the United States, and should I not invest in the United States because [of] our own human rights issues?'"

  • "I'm not trying to make political comparisons. I'm basically just trying to follow the rules."

When Sorkin pointed out that the U.S. "isn't disappearing people" like the Chinese government, Dalio replied: "As a top-down country ... they behave like a strict parent."

  • "If I ... evaluated all approaches around the world in all countries, I'd be in a bind to try to find out ... where do I invest."

Zoom out: In Hong Kong, where Beijing has become increasingly heavy-handed, the Disney+ streaming service apparently censored the episode of "The Simpsons" with Homer visiting Tiananmen Square. (BBC)

Go deeper: Axios reported this week that Airbnb has more than a dozen homes available for rent in China's Xinjiang region on land owned by an organization sanctioned by the U.S. government. Read the investigation.

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