The Snickers confectionary division of the Mars food group is the only U.S. company with a direct Beijing sponsorship deal for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Snickers failed to adjust after the United States, along with parliaments in the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands, called for an end to genocide in China against the Uyghurs. Mars persists in its China deals nonetheless.
Snickers supposedly prides itself on its human rights policy, leaving the company’s candy bars with not only a bloody, but a hypocritical, aftertaste. Mars CEO Frank Reid was quoted by the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in 2019 as saying, “As a beneficiary of China’s deepened reform and opening-up policy, Mars will continue to support this strategic vision and contribute to a better world we want tomorrow.” A “better world” led by Beijing? Please, Frank.
Reid apparently has no commitment to democracy or human rights. Just “opening up” for more business. What would Reid have done if he were “opening up” Germany to sell Snickers bars during the 1936 Olympics? Put a little swastika on them to improve sales?
China is Mars’ second-largest market after the United States, according to Clarence Mak, the president of Mars Wrigley in China. This likely explains the kowtow of a direct Snickers deal with Beijing on the Olympics.
But Mr. Mak should know, it is unethical to do business with a country that is committing genocide. The old fig leaf of business “engagement” with Beijing to liberalize its politics is gone. And, mid-level bureaucrats are not exempt from ethical considerations. Refuse jobs in China, for your own good. China kidnaps staff as leverage for negotiations.
The Mars website states that it has a “global strategic business partnership” with China’s Alibaba Group. “All of Mars’ brands in China, including six brands worth over 1 billion US dollars each – Dove®, Snickers®, M&M’s®, Extra®, Pedigree® and Royal Canin® – will be available on all Alibaba platforms,” according to a statement on the Mars company website. Mars has seven production and research and development facilities in China, 47 branch offices, and 13,000 associates and contractors. Mars also sells its Wrigley Doublemint and TFBoys brands in China.
Do you smell money?
Other companies are sponsoring the “games,” but through the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rather than Beijing directly. They too are dodging the issues of genocide and boycott, or removal of the games to another more reasonable city such as Vancouver or Tokyo. If time is short to move all of the 2022 Winter Olympic games to a single city, why not move them to multiple cities? When the red line of genocide is crossed, there should be no more business as usual. The Olympics are not exempt. The IOC president is not exempt. Are you listening, Thomas Bach?
The companies currently sponsoring the Olympics through the IOC, and trying to dodge responsibility, mostly reply with “no comment” to the genocide. They are not answering the letters of human rights groups, and 11 of 13 refused to answer a Financial Times inquiry. These non-responders include Coca-Cola, Airbnb, Visa, Panasonic, Toyota, Samsung, and Alibaba. Even a Swiss company, EF Education, is implicated. It is one of only two companies with a direct Beijing deal on the Olympics.
Allianz foolishly defended its sponsorship of the games, implying that China has a “different view of human rights.” How is genocide a different view of human rights? It’s the polar opposite.
Omega tries to fell its supposedly discriminating customers with a false equivalence, noting that it sponsored the Los Angeles games in 1984 despite a boycott by several nations. Omega should apologize and clarify publicly: Los Angeles in 1984 was not genocidal. For its own good, Omega might also want to clarify that the logic of its PR team does not reflect upon the logic of its chronographs.
Like Mars Inc., most of these company executives are squeezing themselves into bloody pretzels in their striving for billions in future China revenues. Those revenues mean executive bonuses that could justify another vacation home or new Porsche. They have their noses in an Excel sheet, the bottom line of which is profit. Nothing else matters to them when they are at the office. Their public statements, or lack of them, are made while trying to curry favor in Beijing. Political favor, in a big genocidal dictatorship, equals money.
But where corporations go, the conscientious consumer need not follow. Photos from a recent taste test showed that a generic brand of the Mars and Snickers bars are just as good at less than a fifth of the price. So, until Snickers gets the blood out of its chocolate, make the switch with me. Boycott Snickers. Boycott Mars and all of its subsidiaries. Boycott all sponsors of the Olympic games. End the hypocrisy.
And, consumer boycotts are not enough. The United States and European Union must not only recognize the genocide, but decouple from China. Legislate economic sanctions against Beijing so that corporations that care for nothing but profit, are required to leave the China market. And, China must leave our markets. No more business as usual, until the genocide ends.
Anders Corr has a BA/MA in political science from Yale University (2001) and a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University (2008). He is the principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. He authored “The Concentration of Power” (forthcoming 2021) and “No Trespassing,” and edited “Great Powers, Grand Strategies.”