Vice President Mike Pence took a swipe at Nike and the NBA on Thursday in a speech criticizing communist China's record on trade and human rights, saying American corporations have been too willing to ignore censorship and repression in pursuit of profits. Pence singled out the shoe company for removing Houston Rockets' merchandise from stores in China after the team's general manager angered the Chinese government with a tweet supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, the AP reports. The NBA was acting like a "wholly owned subsidiary" of China's "authoritarian regime" for failing to stand up to the government's criticism of Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, he said. He added that the US supports the protesters: "We stand with you, we are inspired by you. We urge you to stay on the path of non-violent protest."
"Nike promotes itself as a so-called 'social-justice champion,' but when it comes to Hong Kong, it prefers checking its social conscience at the door," the vice president said in a speech laying out the Trump administration's approach to China. Per CNN, "the closely watched address was seen as a barometer of the US administration's approach to China as President Trump works to complete a partial trade deal within the next few weeks." Pence criticized past administrations for tolerating unfair economic and trade practices and repression of Chinese citizens. "The political establishment was not only silent in the faces of China's economic aggression and human rights abuses, but enabled them," he said. Negotiators are still working out details of the modest "phase one" deal in time for Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to sign it at an Asia-Pacific summit next month in Santiago, Chile. But the big issues dividing the world's two biggest economies remain unresolved. (Read more US-China relations stories.)