Shanghaiist reports that ESPN is joining many other American companies in trying to stay in good graces with the Chinese government.
On a Sportscenter segment on Wednesday covering the current NBA-China saga, the sports channel used a Beijing-friendly graphic to depict the country.
ESPN displayed a map of China which included the nine-dash line out into the South China Sea, as well as Taiwan and the Arunachal Pradesh region.
The segment can be found here:
This map is routinely used in China, but rarely abroad. Above all, in neighboring states.
The nine-dash line was first established in 1947 and claims sovereignty over a massive portion of the South China Sea where countries such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam had competing claims.
Additionally, China claims sovereignty over the Himalayan region of Arunachal Pradesh, which is technically under India’s jurisdiction. In 2017, China took it to another level by renaming districts in this region, which it calls “South Tibet.”
Similarly, Taiwan is another area that has been in dispute since China’s successful Communist revolution.
China has emphasized promoting this map, threatening to fine those who make, display, or sell maps that do not conform to Chinese standards.
Foreign companies have also been subject to this standard. In 2018, American clothing retailer the Gap apologized for a t-shirt design that did not have Taiwan in a map of China.
This past week, an internal memo was sent to ESPN employees warning them to not talk about China-Hong Kong politics, when addressing China’s firm response to Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting the Hong Kong protests.
While China escaped the destructiveness of Maoism and started to modernize in the 1980s, its authoritarian tendencies remain strong. In fact, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, the country seems to be reverting back to its authoritarian past. This is of great concern when considering America’s corporate interactions with the country. By conducting business in China for extensive periods of time, these interactions with Chinese corporate culture and the state tend to make American companies more receptive to authoritarian practices which they can import back home.
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