On March 18, Voice of America reported that since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, any area related to Russia had become a PR “no-go area” for Western multinationals. In contrast to the tidal wave of Western companies exiting their operations in Russia, most Chinese companies have maintained their ties to Russia. Some have even increased their support for Moscow.

According to a research team at the Yale School of Management, as of March 17, the number of international companies and associations, mostly European, American, Japanese, and Korean, that have announced partial or total withdrawal from the Russian market and the suspension of investments in Russia has exceeded 400.

In contrast to the boycott of Russia by Western companies, Chinese companies that are internationally known have, to varying degrees, implicitly maintained their support for Russia, while some have remained silent under the pressure of domestic public opinion.

According to British media reports on March 6, Chinese communications technology giant Huawei chose to support the Russian government after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, helping to maintain Russia’s network against the cyber intrusion it was subjected to.

The Daily Mail reported on March 7 that Huawei plans to use five research centers in Russia to train 50,000 technical experts for Russia.

Also, some Chinese companies have reversed their public stance on their Russian operations or chosen to remain silent because of pressure from domestic nationalist opinion.

According to Reuters, Hong Kong-based Lenovo Group has decided to suspend shipments to Russia. Lenovo did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
A handful of more internationalized Chinese technology companies and international brands acquired by Chinese companies have chosen to pull some of their operations out of Russia.

According to Sohu , on March 7, TikTok entered the mainstream international social media scene when it announced that it was suspending new content uploads and live streaming services in Russia.

The announcement comes after Russia enacted a tough censorship law that threatens individuals with up to 15 years in prison for disseminating false information and data about the Russian military.

In addition, Volvo Cars, which China’s Geely Holding Group acquired, announced on February 28 that it was suspending car sales to the Russian market, citing concerns about the potential risks posed by U.S. and EU sanctions against Russia.

Dan Harris, a U.S. attorney familiar with the workings of the U.S.-China business environment, told VOA, “These two companies are interesting because they are two extremes, meaning that TikTok, which has been very successful in the U.S., is also a private company controlled by the Communist Party — because all private companies [in China] are controlled by the Communist Party — but not nearly as much as Huawei. — but nowhere near as successful as Huawei, which in my opinion is the equivalent of the government.”

Silence on Russia may affect China’s brand image.

Maintaining close ties with Russia for a long time may affect the international image of Chinese multinational companies. Take Huawei, for example, whose involvement with Moscow has already caused an outside backlash.

Iain Duncan Smith, a conservative member of the British House of Commons, raised a question in the British Parliament on March 3, asking the British government to investigate whether Huawei is aiding Russia.
The Daily Mail quoted Iain as saying, “There should be a full investigation now because if we’re going to sanction oligarchs who are helping Putin, we should be looking at companies that are also helping Putin.”

In addition, Robert Lewandowski, a Polish athlete and forward for German Bundesliga club Bayern Munich, announced on March 8 that he had prematurely terminated his contract with Huawei. Puls Biznesu media reported that the decision was related to reports that Huawei was helping the Russian government with its network maintenance work.

As reported on VOA Chinese, lawyer Harris said, “Huawei has basically entered the prohibited transaction list of Western countries, which means that the United States and some other countries have shown that they are staying away from Huawei. Therefore, in some countries, if Huawei continues to do business with Russia, It could hurt Huawei. For example, I think some… Central and Eastern European countries are still elusive about Huawei. (Huawei’s ties to Russia) may make them take a stand and say we’re not going to deal with Huawei.”

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