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American populists already blame free trade for costing their country jobs and industrial might. Now they blame it for curtailing freedom of speech. The argument: If the US and Chinese economies weren’t so intertwined, then China couldn’t “export” its authoritarian values by using its huge market power to strong–arm American companies.
Populists correctly note that the NBA’s rebuke of a Houston Rockets official’s pro-Hong Kong democracy tweet is hardly the first instance of Beijing trying to use its financial influence on foreign companies to shape global opinion — especially regarding Hong Kong, Taiwan, and its Uighur reeducation camps. As one China expert told The Washington Post, the Chinese communists don’t tolerate dissent on these issues inside China, “and increasingly they are not tolerating dissent on these issues outside China.”More