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The soft power of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is reflected in the regime’s practices, institutions, and cultural strategies it uses to combat democratic values, and even to persecute political opponents.
One of the main strategies is the use of its economic pull to attract foreign companies that then go on to play an important role in international politics.
Apple and Nike’s lobbying in the United States to reverse genocide-related sanctions on China, or Germany’s policies aimed at favoring Beijing, so as not to harm German businesses in the Asian giant, are examples of China’s vast soft power in economic terms.
Bayern Munich conglomerate as an example of Beijing’s soft power
As Chinese leader Xi Jinping takes aim at Hong Kong, ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, Taiwan or the United States, citizens in free countries are uniting in response to Communist coercion, and athletes are not far behind.
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While the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Houston Rockets and Arsenal have been censured in China for player’s comments on the situation in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, German conglomerate-backed soccer club Bayern Munich is profiting by embracing the CCP’s rules.
The Bayern Munich soccer team has encouraged cultural exchanges and the opening of soccer schools in China. In principle, it is positive news for clubs to expand into new markets, but Bayern Munich has done so despite worldwide denunciations of the Beijing government.
On the other hand, Adidas, one of the German club’s main partners, is on the list of companies benefiting from forced labor in Xinjiang. Following U.S. sanctions by the Trump Administration, Adidas was one of the companies tainted by this practice.
Likewise, Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen, another partner of the soccer club despite strong evidence of forced labor in China, denied knowing about the existence of work camps and defended the German company’s investments in the region.
In addition, insurance company Allianz received the necessary permits to operate fully in China, even though Chinese regulators have tightened banking rules in the country.
Bayern Munich, and its partners, have strong ties to the CCP and ignore allegations of genocide and human rights violations. This is the same line that German Chancellor Angela Merkel takes on China.
Merkel has refused to sanction the Asian giant and has instead proposed, on several occasions, to strengthen ties with Germany’s main trading partner.
Repercussions of Chinese soft power
Governments and businessmen who are part of this soft power do the Communist regime a great favor. China has emerged victorious from disputes and escaped sanctions thanks to the diplomatic pressure it has been able to exert through soft power.
For example, at the United Nations (UN) 45 countries defended the continued existence of concentration camps where forced labor has been proven. On the other hand, few governments, among them, the United States in 2020 called China to account for the COVID-19 pandemic, while Germany has opposed closer ties with Taiwan, a country that was excluded by the World Health Organization, precisely because of pressure from Beijing.
At the UN, since 2012, China has been persecuting any victim who complains to the organization about the constant violations of human rights by the CCP.
Commissions that verify that countries comply with minimum human rights standards have been complicit with the Communist regime in the transfer of “the private information of the complainants.”
Chinese soft power also extends to free countries. The United States, Sweden, Australia and Canada have had to restrict the operation of Confucius Institutes. These institutes are part of Chinese soft power for propaganda purposes and for the control and/or persecution of expatriate Chinese citizens and teachers, according to authorities in these countries.
As business conglomerates, such as the Bayern Munich sports club and its partners, or American conglomerates such as Tesla strengthen their relations with the CCP, they crucially contribute to persecution and to the authoritarian imposition of Xi Jinping’s regime, according to analysts.
Business groups and their lobbies play a key role in the domestic politics of free countries. The sanctions chosen by the Trump administration, and the recent ones by the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, are a fundamental part of the defense of democratic values that China is fighting against.
Camilo Bello is a consultant focused on Asia Pacific studies and has experience in strategic management. He has studied law in Colombia and is currently pursuing studies in language and history at National Taiwan Normal University. He has collaborated with Students for Freedom in Hong Kong and Taiwan // Camilo es consultor enfocado en estudios de Asia Pacífico y experiencia en gestión estratégica. Cuenta con estudios en Derecho en Colombia y actualmente se encuentra realizando estudios en lenguaje e historia en National Taiwan Normal University. Colaborador de Estudiantes por la Libertad en Hong Kong y Taiwán