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Journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin interviews Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, on November 12, 2013, in New York City. (Larry Busacca/Getty Images for The New York Times)

Women's Tennis Has Balls. Does Wall Street?

Cowardice and courage on the question of China.

China is ruled by an increasingly totalitarian regime that uses technology to spy on its citizens. It is, at this moment, carrying out a genocide against its Uyghur Muslim population. It regularly vanishes people who dare to dissent. And it wants to control the terms of debate, politics and business worldwide.

Having disappeared doctors and scientists who tried to blow the whistle on Covid-19, the Chinese Communist Party has now targeted Peng Shuai, a tennis star who accused a former top Chinese government official of sexual assault. “Even if it is like an egg hitting a rock, or if I am like a moth drawn to the flame, inviting self-destruction, I will tell the truth about you,” she wrote on the social media platform Weibo. Then her message disappeared. And so did she.

These are facts discoverable to any American with an internet connection, which the hedge fund investor Ray Dalio surely has in his Greenwich, Connecticut, mansion. 

Smart guy, one imagines, to be trusted with managing $150 billion of other people’s money, as his company Bridgewater does. But when Dalio was asked yesterday on CNBC about China’s human rights record, and how he thinks about it with regard to his investments, he feigned ignorance.

“I can’t be an expert in those types of things,” he told interviewer Andrew Ross Sorkin. “I really have no idea.” He went on to compare China’s government to that of a strict parent, and offered some mush of moral relativism about how the United States does bad things, too. This from a man who wrote a book called “Principles.”

You really should watch the whole thing:

I imagine that Dalio’s indefensible answer might have something to do with the fact that he just raised his largest China fund ever. Money has trumped his basic morality on the question of China. But it’s not just Dalio and Bridgewater. Most of America’s managerial elite has shown itself keen to invest in China for its cheap labor and even slave labor (I’m thinking of Nike, here). And for potential high profits, but entirely at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party (paging Marriott, AirBnB, Apple, Daimler, Volkswagen, Coca-Cola, Tesla, you get the point). The cravenness is by now quotidien.

But now some are standing up to the CCP—and they have a lot less raw power than America’s corporate and financial elites.

As head of the Women’s Tennis Association, Steve Simon earns a fraction of what most corporate CEOs take home, but he has demonstrated more courage in a matter of weeks than others have in decades. 

Yesterday, while Dalio was beclowning himself on TV, Simon announced that the WTA was immediately suspending all tournaments in China because of what the country had reportedly done to Peng Shuai. Here’s how he explained it:

While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation. The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation—without censorship—into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault accusation.

None of this is acceptable nor can it become acceptable. If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded—equality for women—would suffer an immense setback. I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players. 

As a result, and with the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong. In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault. Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.

The decision is “the most courageous move on human rights that I can recall any sports organization making,” said Winston Lord, a former U.S. ambassador to China. He added: “The proportionate financial stakes of the WTA in China dwarf those of the cowardly NBA and other sports groups. I hope, but do not expect, this step will serve to shame and galvanize other organizations and businesses to counter the economic intimidation and political bullying of China.” 

LeBron James, who is worth about a half-billion dollars and, like Ray Dalio, never has to work another day in his life, has so far been quiet on the matter. 

Clearly, women’s tennis has balls of steel. LeBron James, Ray Dalio, and the men (and women!) in the C-suite of every major American corporation: Where are yours? 

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Enes Kanter doesn’t have the same sponsorship deals that Lebron James does, but the Celtics playerand new American citizenhas been absolutely relentless in his criticism of the CCP. Read more about him here.

Meantime, this week on the podcast, a chilling conversation with the man China doesn’t want you to hear. 

Born to a humble family that was marginalized during the Cultural Revolution, Desmond Shum became a wildly successful entrepreneur, along with his ex-wife Whitney Duan, to the tune of billions of dollars. But just as quickly as the Chinese Communist Party elite helped enrich the couple, it tore them down.

In 2017, Whitney disappeared, not to be seen or heard from for four years. She reemerged only on the eve of Desmond’s new book, “Red Roulette,” to urge him to stop publication. 

Listen here:

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