U.S. Sponsors Fan the Olympic Flame

February 15, 2022

America's biggest companies may be downplaying their Olympic sponsorships at home, but in Beijing? You can't walk two feet without a flashy reminder of the U.S.'s heavy corporate presence. "At the bottom of the slope where snowboarders [compete]... an electronic sign cycles through ads for companies like Samsung and Audi," the New York Times explains. "Coca-Cola's cans are adorned with Olympic rings. Procter & Gamble has opened a beauty salon in the Olympic Village. Visa is the event's official credit card." Like most of today's corporate culture, it's the tale of two continents: demand "justice" at home, enable the violators of it abroad.

For Visa, Airbnb, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and Intel Corporation, those pledges of social responsibility and vows to uphold human rights don't translate into Chinese. When their spokespeople have been pressed about Uyghur genocide or the regime's other crimes against humanity, they all shrug and say, "The Games aren't political." But they are profitable, and to this handful of money-grubbing CEOs, that's apparently all that matters. Speaking out would mean jeopardizing their business with 1.4 billion customers -- and that's a risk these brands won't take.

"Isn't that disgusting?" Sam Brownback asked. The former Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom has been as revolted as anyone with the duplicity of America's companies. "They'll protest all the time [about] things going on in the United States or the West. But if it's about China," he fumed on "Washington Watch," "they're silent. And a lot of these Western companies are what's propping up communist China. You pull these western companies out of China and disentangle our two economies, and China is a wreck economically." At the end of the day, he insists, American businesses are helping to make this "totalitarian communist atheistic regime" possible.

In the Wall Street Journal, one Chinese defector warns that hosting the Olympics actually makes the oppression worse. When Beijing won the 2008 Summer Games, a young Anastasia Lin was horrified to watch the persecution intensify leading up to the Olympics. It was the communist party's way of "cleaning up" the city, she said. Friends of hers were sent to "re-education camps" then too, where they were "beaten, slapped, force-fed, and only released when [they] were near death."

"The Communist Party finds these crackdowns necessary because of the influx of foreigners. It doesn't want them to come into contact with Chinese citizens who question or reject its rule." COVID, Lin explains, has given them an even better excuse to keep visitors in a bubble. "Holding the Olympics in Beijing doesn't mean the world accepts China. It means the world accepts the Communist Party, which silences the Chinese people by jailing and torturing those who dare to speak. I didn't understand that in 2001, but I was a child growing up in a closed society. The West has no excuse now."

Fortunately, the fury at the International Olympic Committee (IOC), America's corporate sponsors, and everyone involved in bringing the Games to Beijing is almost universal. Both sides on Capitol Hill have been working furiously to hold the enablers of China responsible. Representatives like Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) have joined forces to bring anyone helping to excuse the regime's human rights abuses to justice. "The IOC's rot runs deep," the pair insists. "We must take action to put pressure on them from every angle, and that means hitting them where it hurts most -- their corporate sponsorships."

American companies who want to wash their hands of the ugliness happening behind closed doors and barbed wire will have a hard time of it now. And that's the silver lining of these Games, Brownback says. "You know, one of the things I've been very pleased about with these Olympics is [that they] have shined a light on all the abuses and the darkness of the Chinese Communist Party... [People have] seen about the abuse of the Uyghurs and what's taking place in the country and of the Christians and what's [happening] to them. [And it's now] becoming a major political issue in the United States. [Americans want to know] what candidates running for the United States Senate are pro-China or anti-China? ... I'm very encouraged about how much the United States public has pushed back against our relationship with communist China."

And frankly, there's a lot more we can do. For starters, we can avoid the companies who are doing business with one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. Instead of encouraging their woke corporate agendas, it's time to walk down the street to a local IGA or a True Value Hardware and do your shopping with small businesses who are more responsive to the community. Americans need to send the message that we won't tolerate corporations who won't "meddle" in China but refuse to stop meddling in policy decisions here at home.

As Michael Mazza passionately reminds everyone in NRO, we are the solution. "It is American consumers who have the ability to actually impose costs. But they -- we -- have not done so... From the halls of power in Washington to the beverage aisles in grocery stores, we have all failed the Uyghurs and other victims of [communist China's] rights abuses, to some degree. While they suffer at the hands of a genocidal regime, the rest of us blithely gorge on the bread and circuses that the regime serves up. Shame on us all."