Major League Baseball is expanding its partnership with the Chinese Communist Party, coming at the expense of U.S. jobs and growing Chinese influence over America's pastime.
The country's leading propaganda outlet China Daily on Aug. 20 touted the MLB’s attempts to build a "baseball ecosystem" within the country. The league has grown its network to more than 100 Chinese baseball teams in 20 cities, with a growing fanbase of millions. The league's operations in cahoots with Beijing are not just limited to play—quality U.S. jobs are also at stake. Miken Sports, a baseball equipment brand that provides business to the league, folded a Minnesota production plant and moved its nearly 70 jobs to China.
The league’s interest in exporting jobs and resources to China is drawing fierce rebukes from lawmakers. Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R., Minn.), whose district includes the Miken plant, introduced a resolution on Wednesday obtained by the Washington Free Beacon blasting the MLB for taking away American jobs.
"Baseball is considered to be America’s national pastime, so it is completely outrageous that the MLB has decided to shut down the Miken Sports plant in Caledonia and outsource American jobs to communist China—directly defying the MLB’s position as an American sports league," Hagedorn said. "Miken has been one of the largest employers in Caledonia for decades, and this community will face major hardships and job losses due to this closure. We are urging the MLB to reverse this decision, purchase products that are made in America, and work to keep these jobs at home."
The MLB has also tapped savvy business professionals with deep ties to Chinese industry to oversee production. Tony Qi, the managing director of MLB China, leads the league's operations in China. The MLB tapped Qi to grow activities in China in 2019, citing his work with Chinese state media, tech supergiant Tencent, and other Chinese conglomerates. In an August interview, Qi praised the Chinese government for its cooperation and assistance in establishing the MLB brand in China.
"Government policy is also a huge help," Qi said. "China is now aiming to let the next generation enjoy various sports, and has implemented a series of preferential policies. So more and more baseball clubs are growing in China. … The baseball environment has changed dramatically since MLB entered the Chinese market."
The MLB did not return a request for comment. The MLB Players Association did not return a request for comment.
Ambitious efforts from the league come shortly after the MLB appealed to Chinese tech giant Tencent—noted for its surveillance activities, human rights abuses, and ties to the military—to grow its brand. The league signed a three-year contract with the Chinese company in 2021 to stream games across Asia. Chinese state media framed the agreement as a step forward for Sino-American relations, even as the two countries feud over issues such as the genocide of Uyghur Muslims, economic espionage, and military buildup.
The MLB's cooperation with the Chinese regime also comes amid Beijing's criticism of American domestic political figures for alleged civil rights abuses. The league moved its All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver in protest of a voting law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp (R., Ga.), citing the need for the league to express its "values."
Michael Sobolik, a fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, said the values expressed by the league more resemble a "cynical PR campaign" than a stand on principle.
"It's telling that Major League Baseball pulled out of Georgia for the All-Star Game over concerns with voting legislation, but is entirely comfortable with operating in a nation with an ongoing genocide," Sobolik said. "If your corporate values abroad don't match your corporate values at home, you aren't standing on principle; you're just running a cynical PR campaign. The CCP routinely exploits this inconsistency in U.S. companies eager to access China's market. Every time American businesses choose their own economic wealth over human rights, they write the Party's propaganda for them."
Rep. Drew Ferguson (R., Ga.) told the Free Beacon the MLB is another example of big business "playing politics" and caving to the "woke mob."
"This year, the MLB along with CEOs from several Fortune 500 companies have decided to start playing politics, picking and choosing where they'll do business according to the whims of the woke mob," Ferguson said. "Unfortunately, when it comes to issues of real human rights and genocide, they fall silent. It's time to hold American organizations and companies accountable for their roles in propping up communist China on the global stage. Congress must set aside partisan politics and stand united against the CCP’s malign influence and activities at home and abroad."