Bloomberg news. April 1, 2021.
For any company doing business in China, the choice is now clearer than ever: Avoid commenting on any controversial subjects or risk losing access to the world’s second-largest economy.
Over the past few weeks, President Xi Jinping’s government endorsed a boycott against retailers like Hennes & Mauritz AB and slapped sanctions on a range of organizations — including a group of barristers in the U.K. — over statements made on alleged forced labor in Xinjiang. Then on Tuesday, he signed off on sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s election system to give Beijing veto power over any candidates.
China’s more aggressive stance, triggered in part by collective action by the U.S. and its allies to sanction Chinese officials, is forcing companies to quickly weigh what they will do to maintain access to 1.4 billion consumers with ever-more spending power. So far, with growth in the rest of the world anemic, most companies are either keeping their heads down or stepping up investments.
While it used to be easier for companies to operate in China and manage corporate social responsibility, now it’s difficult to show that outside influence has any impact on changing the Communist Party’s actions, according to Margaret Lewis, a law professor and China specialist at Seton Hall University.
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