Oct 24, 2019

Pence blasts U.S. businesses for siding with China

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

In a speech about America's biggest adversary on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence saved some of his sharpest words for U.S. companies.

What he's saying: The VP steered clear of the uber-hawkish wing of the Trump administration, saying the U.S. does not want to "decouple" with China and "does not seek open confrontation."

  • But, he expressed full support for Chinese Christians and Uighurs, defended pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and slammed the NBA and Nike for muzzling free speech to do business with China.

The big picture: Although Pence emphasized that the U.S. wants to engage with China, not fight it, he laid out a long list of examples of its bad behavior.

  • Intellectual property theft.
  • Chinese fentanyl in the American opioid crisis.
  • Chinese export of surveillance technologies.
  • The global influence operations under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Why it matters: With its massive market of consumers and leverage against the U.S. in the trade war, China is increasingly difficult for some American politicians and companies to criticize.

  • Pence said the NBA is "siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech ... acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime."
  • “Nike promotes itself as a so-called social-justice champion, but when it comes to Hong Kong, it prefers checking its social conscience at the door,” he said.

Yes, but: In 2017, the VP walked out of an NFL game after players exercised those same rights to free expression by taking a knee during the national anthem.

Go deeper: How businesses are silenced by China, Russia and Saudi Arabia

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Countries where novel coronavirus cases are falling may be hit with a "second peak" if they relax restrictions too soon, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan warned during a briefing Monday. "We're still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up," he added.

By the numbers: Brazil on Monday recorded for the first time more deaths from the novel coronavirus in a single day than the United States, Reuters notes. Brazil reported 807 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, compared to 620 in the U.S. for the same period.

Palantir CEO reflects on work with ICE

Palantir CEO Alex Karp told "Axios on HBO" that there have "absolutely" been moments he wished the company hadn't taken a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

  • "Did I suffer? ... I've had some of my favorite employees leave," Karp told "Axios on HBO."

Michigan governor won't apologize for coronavirus lockdown

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer defended the strictness of her state's coronavirus lockdown in an interview with "Axios on HBO," saying it was necessary — despite the protests that have drawn national attention — because of how quickly the state's cases were rising.

The big picture: Whitmer, who has been a frequent target of President Trump, insisted that she had to act in the face of a lack of federal leadership — and that thousands more people in her state would have died without the lockdown.