Oct 8, 2019

Axios PM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 551 words, a 2 minute read.

1 big thing: America strikes back

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

An NBA GM has done a better job of alerting the U.S. to the China threat than any politician, writes Axios' Erica Pandey.

Why it matters: Millions of Americans appear to be realizing the power and breadth of China's ability to censor and control on a worldwide scale.

  • China has a history of leveraging access to its massive market of 1.5 billion consumers to get foreign companies to bend to its will, squeezing apologies out of multinational retailers and airlines alike.

But something else is happening here: The NBA, after initially backing away from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey's tweet, is standing its ground — even though there are billions at stake if the league loses its Chinese audience.

  • Commissioner Adam Silver — who plans to visit Shanghai Wednesday — backed Morey today: "[T]he NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues."
  • Yes, but: Silver has carefully avoided weighing in on the Hong Kong protests, making the issue about freedom of speech. "It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences."

China is hitting back: CCTV, the state-run broadcaster, has announced it will no longer air two pre-season games that will take place in China. "We're strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver's claim to support Morey's right to freedom of expression," CCTV said.

And new issues of China-backed censorship on U.S. shores are gaining attention. 

  • Activision Blizzard — the American gaming company behind World of Warcraft in which Chinese tech giant Tencent has a 4.9% stake — suspended and took prize money from Chung Ng Wai, a Hong Kong-based pro player for making a statement supporting the Hong Kong movement.

The bottom line: "The NBA may be more strongly positioned to push back than other U.S. businesses that have run afoul of the Chinese government," WSJ reports.

  • "It’s the most powerful sports league in the country and plays such an outsize role in local sporting culture that China without the NBA is increasingly unimaginable."

Go deeper... Podcast: The NBA's future is China

Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Yang Meiqing/VCG via Getty Images

A barefooted man walks through burning charcoal as he performs firewalking to celebrate the Double Ninth Festival in Jinhua, China.

2. What you missed
  1. The State Department will impose visa restrictions on Chinese government officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the mass detention and surveillance of Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang province. Go deeper.
  2. The Senate Intelligence Committee released the second volume of its report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Go deeper.
  3. President Trump does not want U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland to sit for a deposition in the Ukraine investigation. Go deeper.
  4. Dick's Sporting Goods turned nearly $5 million worth of guns into scrap metal rather than sending them back to manufacturers after the company restricted the sale of military-style guns starting in 2018. Go deeper.
  5. Price hikes on 7 prominent drugs cost Americans more than $5 billion over the last two years. Go deeper.
3. 1 🥇 thing

Photo: Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Simone Biles, who is 22 years old, "just officially became the most decorated female gymnast in history," CNN reports.

  • Biles "won her 21st World Championship medal in Stuttgart, Germany. (The win Tuesday beats the record of retired gymnast Svetlana Khorkina, who had 20.)"

The bottom line: 15 of her 21 medals are gold, CNN notes.

Mike Allen