Blizzard’s Political Snowstorm

“China will continue to play its part as a major and responsible country.”

Xi Jinping

Some who will read this post will not know who Blizzard are and will likely be completely unaware of the story I am referring to. The story itself outside of gaming circles isn’t one of great consequence however the actions this company raises a fundamental question that many companies on the global market will have to answer. Mortality or money?

The origins of this story start with the pro democracy rallies in Hong Kong and how the situation is becoming increasingly dire there. A Professional Gamer playing the game called Hearthstone named Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai used his platform to support the protests within the special administrative region, that violated the rules of the competitive tournament he had taken part in. As a result Blizzard Entertainment the makers of Hearthstone banned him from all professional Hearthstone events for one year and withdrew the prize money that he had won.

The gaming community is up in arms over this, not that (on the whole) they are disputing the breach of the terms of the competition but at the harshness of the punishment, especially given that two of the core values of Blizzard Entertainment seem to contradict with the actions they have taken. The issue continues to rage across social media and likely will among the gaming community for a long time after it has faded from public consciousness.

Why use this story as the basis of an article? The answer is a single word: China. Blizzard like many other western companies for sustained growth need expanding markets and the market expanding most rapidly is China. Yet to do business within China one requires to be approved by their government and the company must promote ‘traditional values’ to the Chinese population. Or in plain english, not contradict the government propaganda machine.

Yet China’s government and their actions come into complete contrast with the values of the west. Free markets, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to protest. Yet these values can be compromised in the name of growing profits for the shareholders, which one cannot critise after all the purpose of the boards of companies is to create growth to feed their shareholders. It is not their job to care on the morality of a situation merely the economic potential.

In an episode of the West Wing Albie Duncan explains to CJ Craig on flight to a Presidential debate that: “They’ll still be sewing baseballs with their teeth whether we sell them cheeseburgers or not.” That line in that TV show even though it is almost 20 years old is completely true using the excuse of engaging in business relations with China will change them culturally is merely a delusion and any who believes that truly is a fool.

To continue to trade with China, the West will have to surrender their mortality. China will not be changing in their attitude, not the foreseeable future. China has the economic capital that it knows it cannot be ignored on the world stage and that for growth they must be engaged with. But this point is new to no one.

As anyone who reads my posts will know by now I like to leave you thinking afterwards, leaving an unseen question hanging in the air to consider. Today that will be different I will ask the question directly:

What will it take for the West to cease economic ties with China?

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