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pei55_ANTHONY WALLACEAFP via Getty Images_basketballcarrielamposter Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images

How China Loses Friends and Alienates People

China's recent attempt to bully the National Basketball Association over a tweet in support of the Hong Kong protesters has backfired. Although the government has successfully intimidated many a Western company and foreign government, this time it made a huge – and potentially costly – miscalculation.

CLAREMONT – The Chinese folk saying “lift a rock only to drop it on one’s own feet,” or its English equivalent – “to shoot oneself in the foot” – perfectly describes the self-defeating inclinations of dictatorship. And nothing exemplifies such inclinations so much as China’s recent effort to bully America’s National Basketball Association (NBA).

The row began when the Houston Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey, tweeted (and quickly deleted) support for the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” The response was swift. China’s government blacklisted the Rockets; ordered the state-run television network to cancel broadcasts of two NBA pregame matches; and instructed Chinese companies to suspend their sponsorships and licensing agreements with the NBA.

As the NBA’s largest international market, China expected the league to scurry back into line, apologize for offending the Communist Party of China (CPC), and pledge never to repeat the mistake. And, initially, the NBA did just that. “We feel greatly disappointed at [Morey’s] inappropriate speech, which is regrettable,” the league said in a statement. “We take respecting Chinese history and culture as a serious matter.”

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