You’re not allowed to quote the Dalai Lama — at least, not if you want to make and sell cars in China.
Reuters pointed out that Mercedes has issued an apology in China, because it showed a quote from the Dalai Lama in a social-media message. The company backed down quickly to government outrage; the Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, a group that China does not recognize as having an independent existence.
American and European companies have been backing down more frequently as the Chinese government has flexed its muscle, allowing local censorship, turning over proprietary information, and backing down from any statements that might offend local powers. China, as the world’s largest market, is key for many companies; but the government only allowed foreign companies limited access, and has been known to immediately shut down sales if its demands are not met. China has, for example, temporarily banned Apple products, while allowing counterfeiters to openly create clones of Apple parts and products, to gain leverage. Marriott’s web site was shut down in China because it listed Taiwan and Tibet as countries in their dropdown menus.
The author of books on the Dodge Viper, Jeep pickups and wagons, and Chrysler minivans (as well as a kid’s book about early Jeeps), David Zatz has been writing about cars and trucks since the early 1990s; he also writes on organizational development and business at toolpack.com and covers Mac statistics software at macstats.org. His latest book, for kids, is Meet the Jeep.
David has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. You can reach him by using our contact form.