The consortium of Mid-atlantic states led by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which is creating a plan to reopen their economies, has hired consulting firm McKinsey and Company to help with their efforts. As the New York Post reported last week, officials close to the process say the McKinsey-aided plan is an attempt to thwart Trump’s efforts at quick reopening, one official called it “Trump-proof.” But McKinsey is very close to another part of this story too, the nation that brought us the coronavirus, China.
A brutal expose in the New York Times from 2018 showed a deeply troubling relationship between McKinsey and Communist state-owned companies in China. Some of the projects they worked on, including a set of artificial islands in the South China Sea are at direct odds with stated American policy goals.
In 2018, the consulting firm held a corporate retreat in Western China just a few scant miles from the sites of concentration camps where the Communist government imprisons upwards of a million Uyghur Muslims. This humanitarian crisis was no secret at the time. As the McKinsey executives took camel ride selfies, the world knew that an entire ethnic minority was being systematically erased just down the road.
McKinsey’s excuse is the same as every company that kow tows to the communist regime in China, that it’s easier to fix China’s humanitarian problems from the inside. That is unadulterated neoliberal hokum, which has been proven wrong over, and over, and over. Making China more wealthy has not made China more free, it has only made it more powerful. Now it is using that power to challenge American interests and to spread deadly lies about a pandemic it created.
McKinsey’s close ties to China should give us some pause considering the power that Cuomo’s Mid-atlantic band of governors are prepared to give it. Much of the firm’s work will be modeling testing and testing result patterns, which means they will be gathering and generating a remarkable amount of valuable data. These states are also looking at potential tracing programs meant to isolate infected individuals.
These kinds of invasive practices walk a fine line in regard to civil liberties. Maybe a consulting firm that is comfortable looking the other way at literal concentration camps is not the best choice to assist in efforts to contain a virus while respecting the rights of American citizens. We also might consider the wisdom of handing so much information to a company with its hands so deeply and snugly in Communist China’s pockets.
Even before the outbreak of the Wuhan virus pandemic we were seeing troubling signs of China’s emerging power in our society and culture. From Hollywood movies removing images of Taiwanese flags to the NBA falling all over itself not to embarrass China over its brutal Hong Kong crackdowns, the communist regime was exerting a clear influence.
Massive government actions like the coronavirus virus response can be a windfall for companies like McKinsey, it’s like the consulting Olympics. We saw how patronage can play a role in all this in Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had to do an embarrassing backtrack, revoking a consulting contract that was given to an extremely pro-Democrat firm.
Cuomo and the rest of the governors should be very wary of gibing so much power (and money) to an entity like McKinsey. But in the broader sense, all of our economic transactions with China must start being viewed through a different lens. The communist government of China has made it clear that it has no interest in a sincere relationship of mutual interest. They are a geopolitical foe. We have to stop pretending that is going to change if only American companies send just a few more jobs over there.
It is disappointing that Cuomo and other Democratic governors appear to be looking at their reopening efforts as adversarial to Trump’s. It’s just not a productive way to go forward. It may be even worse that they are trusting a company to help them defeat a scourge from China, which has expended enormous resources to brush up the Chinese brand around the world. There has to be a better company to do this.