Beginning in 2020, the virtual #MilkTeaAlliance movement brought together a transnational group of citizens across the Asia-Pacific that were critical of censorship and nationalism. While the decentralized movement is limited by its lack of cohesion, it has become a force to be reckoned with, gaining the attention and ire of the Chinese government.
At the early onset of the pandemic, the robot Baymax became an unlikely pandemic folk hero, on account of his strong resemblance to the protective gear worn by Chinese health care volunteers. But the suits have now become symbolic of Beijing’s top-down pandemic control measures—and the public’s frustration with them.
For Disney and other U.S. corporations operating in China, an apolitical stance amounts to deference to the status quo. But the status quo shifts according to political winds, and worsening U.S.-China relations combined with Beijing’s heavy-handed approach to U.S. companies have made the status quo tougher to navigate.
In Western liberal democracies, anti-China rhetoric seeks to embolden patriotism among Western citizens and provide a clear framework around which to rally the public. In practice, however, this pattern of behavior reveals more about the West than it does about Beijing. It also works to undermine key premises of liberal democracy.