Financial Times: Western companies in China succumb to Stockholm syndrome

A Shanghai store of Swedish clothing company H&M, which is one of the businesses reliant on the huge and growing Chinese market © Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty

Western companies in China succumb to Stockholm syndrome, Jamil Anderlini, Asia Editor of The Financial Times states in his recently published opinion piece. According to him, companies are held hostages’ by the Chinese State and the condition afflicts to large parts of the corporate world including some governments in regards to their dealings with the Chinese Communist Party. 

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response, named after a notorious robbery in the Swedish capital in 1973. The condition occurs when hostages or abuse victims bond with their captors or abusers. This psychological connection develops over the days, weeks, months, or even years of captivity or abuse.

“It may sound strange to describe successfully, money-making ventures in China as hostages. But in their daily operations, many of these companies face intellectual property theft, unpredictable and predatory policymaking, intrusive surveillance by the secret police, and the threat of exit bans or even employee arrest arising from ordinary business disputes, Jamil Anderlini writes. 

Jamil Anderlini states that because Beijing has punished so many companies and countries for a range of perceived political slights, many companies do feel like hostages but move the focus away from China and tend to blame politicians, media, or human rights groups in their home countries for antagonizing their captors instead. Because these large companies like H&M, Volkswagen, Apple, Starbucks, Nike, Intel, Qualcomm and General Motors rely hugely on the Chinese market, they “have lobbied” in public or in private on behalf of the same government that holds them to ransom in China,” he states. 

“Unfortunately for companies heavily reliant on China, it is no longer enough to stay quiet about human rights abuses, unfair business practices, or political interference. If you want to make money in modern China you have to toe the Communist party’s line, engage in ostentatious displays of fealty, and assist in its propaganda efforts globally.” Jamil Anderlini writes.

Read Jamil Anderlini’s full opinion piece and more on the subject here

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