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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Companies that do business in China — especially Olympics sponsors — are concerned Beijing will use the 2022 Winter Games as a loyalty test.

Why it matters: China's leaders have become adept at silencing criticism from U.S. companies that might otherwise condemn the country's human rights record — and the Chinese government has been able to host prestigious global events like the Olympics while committing rights violations with impunity.

  • "There is a desire on China’s part to showcase its strength more than anything else, as opposed to just showcasing winter sport," said Steven Fox, executive chairman and founder of Veracity Worldwide, a business intelligence and strategic advisory firm.
  • "This is about China being on the world stage, even more than was the case in 2008."

What's happening: There are 13 top-level Olympics corporate sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Visa, Airbnb and Intel, which together are projected to have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to sponsor the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

  • Journalists, rights groups and politicians have pressed the companies to speak out against China's human rights violations, especially the government's campaign of mass internment and forced labor targeting ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
  • None of the companies have done so.

State of play: With customer bases in both the U.S. and China, U.S. companies are facing radically divergent demands in the months leading up to the Olympics.

  • "The customer base outside China may expect companies to make a statement or take action — whereas any such action could in turn lead to boycotts by Chinese customers in China," Fox told Axios.
  • Corporate executives understand Beijing is unlikely to tolerate anything but full-throated enthusiasm for the Games.

The bottom line: "Companies will want to be as neutral as possible and say, 'It’s not our place to play politics,'" Fox said.

Go deeper: China's business crackdown isn't scaring away big investors

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Nov 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump eyes digital media empire to take on Fox News

Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

President Trump has told friends he wants to start a digital media company to clobber Fox News and undermine the conservative-friendly network, sources tell Axios.

The state of play: Some Trump advisers think Fox News made a mistake with an early call (seconded by AP) of President-elect Biden's win in Arizona. That enraged Trump, and gave him something tangible to use in his attacks on the network.

Updated 34 mins ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 56 mins ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.