OPINION

When it comes to China, remember the Alamo
At the same time Beijing exploits the NBA’s profit motive, it underestimates Texans’ love of our freedoms
Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic shoots over Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz during the first half of an NBA China Games 2018 preseason basketball game in Shanghai. ( File Photo/Staff)
By PATRICK JENEVEIN

Hip, hip, hooray for Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets’ general manager, who fired the tweet from Houston heard around the world in Beijing.

Morey’s message stood up for Hong Kong freedom seekers and “deeply shocked” the Communist Party of China, according to its representative authority in Houston.

Morey’s not the first Texan to tweak an authoritarian’s sensitivity. William B. Travis used his sword to cut a line in Alamo dirt. Travis, too, took a stand to protect people from dictators.

And so, Texans today should stand with Morey and stand up for Hong Kong.

It won’t be easy. From 25 years of wrestling with party-controlled companies, the companies I work with and lead have learned three relevant lessons.

First, the party knows its own strengths and U.S. weaknesses better than it knows U.S. strengths. Second, party enterprises know no limit of testing the laws to achieve Communist Party objectives. Third, to protect U.S. long-term interests, we must defend our values.

China’s Communist Party sees the NBA’s desire to raise revenue from China as a weakness to exploit.

Already, the party has pressured the league to back away from Morey’s moral position. The party does not, however, appreciate the firmness of Texans’ commitment to freedom, especially to freedom of speech.

Using legal terminology, the party has instructed Morey to “correct the error” his tweet freely aired.

Associates in my business could see this threat coming. Many have received legal demands to cease and desist from making comments critical of the party. Many, many more censor their own comments because they wish to travel freely to and from China.

It is time that Texans, with commitments steeped in history, introduce value-focused ideas aimed precisely at China’s dictators instead of at China’s population as an indiscriminate whole.

As an example, Texans could encourage a comparison of tariff policies. Current U.S. strategy couches tariffs in terms of a trade war. There is a war; it manifests itself in trade imbalances, but it is a much broader war between two distinct and mutually exclusive systems.

One uses laws to protect people from dictators; the other uses laws to protect the party from the people.

Texans could present a principles-founded case for removing tariffs if the Chinese Communist Party allowed Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, to resign, moved Chinese troops away from Hong Kong’s borders and opened a sincere dialogue with Britain for recommitting to the treaty that turned Hong Kong over to party administration.

At worst, such an argument would support understanding of Hong Kong’s implications to the rest of the freedom-loving world. At best, it could further undermine the increasingly overstretched authoritarian faction within the party.

The first condition takes aim at the party leadership. If that leadership allows popular protests to change too many of its decisions, it could fall like a house of cards.

By directing the party where not to deploy armed forces, the second provision could create room for Chinese actors within China to challenge party power.

The third provision provides an out for the party to assent and save face by allowing an indirect response to the United States through Britain.

We should take our principles from the Alamo’s battle wall and raise them above China’s Great Wall.

Patrick Jenevein is chief executive of Pointe Bello LLC, a Texas-based, China-focused advisory firm. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.