by John Hayward
AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein
China's repressive Technocracy is now reaching
outside of its own borders to bully any corporation
or travel site that refers to Taiwan, Tibet or Hong
Kong as sovereign countries.
Western companies are bowing down to China in full
China would not get away with this except that they
exert tremendous trade pressure throughout the whole
planet, so non-compliance would be met with
International was one of several companies
caught up in China's crackdown on
foreign corporations that allegedly insult its territorial integrity
by treating controversial or semi-autonomous regions like,
separate "countries" on their websites.
Days after the story broke, Marriott is still offering fulsome
apologies and implementing a draconian "eight-point rectification
plan" to get right with Beijing.
In fact, according
to an article
in the state-run China Daily on Thursday, Marriott froze all of its social media
worldwide to placate the authoritarian communist nation.
The article stated:
The company was discovered to have
classified the four regions as countries in a mail survey to its
Chinese members on Jan 9, and "liked" the post of a separatist
group on Twitter, which "congratulated" the listing the
The actions resulted in strong
reactions from both the public and government of China.
regular news briefing three days later, the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs urged overseas companies to show respect for China's
sovereignty and territorial integrity.
After identifying its errors, the
company has taken the survey offline, "unliked" the post, shut
down its six websites and apps in Chinese, and put a freeze on
its social media across the world.
The CEO has volunteered to
issue an apology.
It has also terminated the
contract with the third-party vendor that built the survey, a
Canadian company that Marriott has been working with for a long
time, and with the US-based employee who "liked" the tweet.
The tweet China
Daily refers to was posted by Friends
of Tibet, which China considers a "separatist group" because it
advocates independence for the Tibetan people.
organizations appear strangely reluctant to actually quote the tweet
that just got somebody in Marriott's customer rewards department
fired, but Friends of Tibet helpfully pinned it
to the top of their Twitter page.
Twitter is one of
several social media services banned in
China, so Beijing was able to get a foreign (possibly American)
employee fired for "liking" a post on an American social media
platform that Chinese citizens cannot use.
"This is a huge
mistake, probably one of the biggest in my career.
confidence and trust, the first thing is to admit the mistake,
then fix it, and it would come back slowly as we prove we really
mean what we say," Marriott's Asia-Pacific managing director
Craig S. Smith told China Daily on Wednesday.
To that end,
Marriott announced an,
rectification plan" that will include "expanding employee
education globally, creating straightforward complaint channels
for Chinese customers, and more strictly supervising the work of
third-party agents for projects largely targeting the China
crackdown on challenges to its territorial claims, deliberate or
inadvertent, has not been limited to travel company websites.
on Tuesday that China has taken to destroying entire shipments of
Taiwanese food products, if they are not clearly labeled as coming
from the "Taiwan Area" or "Taiwan, China," at a cost of over a
hundred thousand dollars U.S. for each lost shipment.
Post reported Wednesday
about a Peking University alumnus named Shawn Zang, who currently
lives in Canada on a student visa, whose parents back in China were
visited by the police within hours of Zhang reposting that Friends
of Tibet tweet about Marriott.
"It's like they
are holding my parents hostage there, so that I can't say
things. It is not just Chinese, but many non-Chinese are under
Canada and the United States have to censor their own statements
if they want to get business inside China, so they don't say
anything. They surrender to censorship," Zhang keenly observed.
"In Canada, in
general, most Chinese students are not willing to express any
opinion about China, or to talk about China.
Taiwanese friends are worried about getting in trouble with the
Chinese government - they have friends and family, and they
don't want to express opinions.
The situation is very
disturbing," he said.
refused to take down his tweet, but evidently his parents reached an
agreement with Chinese authorities to have him remove two posts they
didn't like on
Weibo, which is essentially China's version of
One of the posts in
question was a very, very mild joke involving a popular nickname for
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
University professor of public ethics Clive Hamilton, one of
Australia's most prominent academics,
told Business Insider on Wednesday that China is,
economic blackmail, imposing acceptance of its geopolitical
ambitions on corporations that want to operate in the country."
incident shows that, for foreign companies, the price of
operating in China is succumbing to the Communist Party's
thought control," Hamilton said.
written an entire book on the subject of China's dangerous political
influence and economic blackmail, entitled Silent Invasion: How
China is Turning Australia into a Puppet State.
can't read it yet, because
China intimidated Hamilton's publisher
into delaying the release of the book by threatening defamation
company with publisher Allen & Unwin in response.
seeing… is the first instance where a major Western publisher
has decided to censor material of the Chinese Communist Party in
its home country," Hamilton
said in November, as he began searching for a new publisher.
Australians living in a free society should not allow ourselves
to be bullied into silence by an autocratic foreign power."
It is all part of
what the Chinese government sees as an opportunity to remake its
image and control free speech around the world by leveraging its
desiring access to Chinese markets are growing accustomed to
compromising Western ideals of free speech and individual liberty.
Western businessmen have proven almost universally willing to submit
to China's demands.
Few of them respond
to Beijing's "sharp
power" the way Clive Hamilton did, not when millions of product
sales, plane tickets, or hotel reservations are on the line.
Communist Party's People's Daily published a 5,500-word
article this week, written as a semi-official declaration of Party
thought, declaring that,
"the world has
never focused on China so much and needed China so much as it
this is the perfect moment to use Chinese economic leverage to
reshape global order.
capitalism-led world political and economic system is full of
drawbacks; the global governance system is undergoing profound
changes; and a new international order is taking shape," the
People's Daily judged, asserting that China is "more
confident and capable than at any given period in history seize
"The amount of
publicity the article has received from the propaganda machine
also sets it apart. In addition to dominating headlines on party
media outlets and online news portals, it was promoted on social
media the night before it went to press - rare treatment for
commentaries in the paper," the South China Morning Post
means business and grows increasingly confident of its ability to
force international companies to toe the Communist Party line.
This is no longer
just about blocking access to foreign material the Chinese
government doesn't want its citizens to see.
It's using sharp power
to force groveling apologies from Western companies and censor
material its citizens cannot see.
view Beijing's dramatic reaction to the Marriott "mistake" as a
sign of weakness and insecurity, but the People's Daily
portrays it as the roar of a newborn dragon, with more serious
demands yet to come...