Yale Has Ties to Two Chinese Companies on Its Russia Boycott List

Ma Huateng at a 2019 meeting of China's National People's Congress / Getty Images
April 11, 2022

Yale's School of Management is pushing for a boycott of companies that refuse to end their business dealings with Russia, a campaign that could prove awkward given the school’s ties to Chinese tech companies that refuse to divest.

Yale has garnered praise for tracking companies' relationships with Russia following the Ukraine invasion. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, the Yale School of Management professor maintaining the list, has identified more than 600 companies that have severed ties with Russia and more than 160 others that still do business there. Sonnenfeld wrote in a New York Times article boosted by the School of Management this week that consumers should boycott companies that continue business with Russia.

Two companies still active in Russia, according to the Yale list, are Chinese tech giants Tencent and Lenovo. Tencent operates numerous internet streaming platforms and the popular chat service WeChat. A hedge fund started with seed money from Yale's endowment was one of the biggest early investors in Tencent in the early 2000s. Lenovo is one of the largest computer makers in the world.

The founders of both companies serve on the advisory board for Yale Center Beijing, which operates under the control of the Yale School of Management. Ma Huateng, the founder of Tencent, has donated to Yale Beijing Center, the Washington Free Beacon previously reported. The Beijing Center has hosted Ma multiple times over the years and held events involving Tencent executives, Chinese government officials and Yale School of Management officials.

Sonnenfeld told the Free Beacon that while he admires "the entrepreneurial initiative and technological genius behind" Tencent and Lenovo, he is "personally disappointed in the public position the current leadership of each seems to have taken on this Russian engagement." Sonnenfeld added that he is not authorized to speak on behalf of Yale or the Beijing Center.

Tencent has faced scrutiny in the United States for helping the Chinese government censor Internet content. The company refused to broadcast NBA games on its streaming service after a league executive praised pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The Defense Department has raised concerns about Lenovo equipment in the past due to concerns that they could be used to spy on Pentagon networks.

Yale School of Management and Sonnenfeld did not respond to requests for comment.