In a startling statement, Wang Lei, the president of AstraZeneca in China and the company’s global executive vice president, declared that the pharmaceutical giant would strive to be a patriotic company that “loves the Communist Party.” The announcement was made during a celebration of AstraZeneca’s 30-year presence in China.
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While it’s not uncommon for domestic companies to show their loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party amid President Xi Jinping’s strengthened control, such declarations are rare and striking from foreign corporations. This potentially highlights China’s increasing influence on multinational corporations and may raise eyebrows concerning ethical boundaries and corporate independence.
In a recent event in Wuxi, Wang expressed the British-Swedish company’s intent to “build a local, transnational company that loves the Communist Party and loves the country.” However, when asked to comment on Wang’s remarks and their implications for AstraZeneca’s business plans in China, a spokesperson for the company’s Cambridge headquarters declined to comment.
Among the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, AstraZeneca’s substantial and burgeoning presence in China is significant. It is the country’s largest drugmaker and has been operating there for three decades. Last year, the UK based company generated 13 percent of its sales in China, and it is investing USD 450 million in a factory to produce inhalers for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, commonly referred to as “smoker’s lung.”
Despite recent crackdowns on consulting and due diligence firms by Chinese authorities, which have caused unease among many foreign companies, AstraZeneca has reaffirmed its commitment to China, with its CEO Pascal Soriot and other executives of multinational companies visiting the country.
Critics might argue that AstraZeneca’s overly enthusiastic stance towards the Chinese Communist Party underlines a concerning trend among foreign companies to adapt their values to appease Chinese authorities. These decisions raise questions about the potential erosion of corporate independence and the ethical implications of doing business in China under the prevailing political climate.