As I noted Sunday, Visa and MasterCard have suspended operations in Russia because, as Visa’s Al Kelly put it, of “Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the unacceptable events that we have witnessed.” It is striking, however, that despite a steady stream of “unacceptable events” coming out China, Visa and MasterCard are reportedly still operating there. The rampant human rights abuses China is committing against the Uighurs apparently don’t rise to the level of “unacceptable” for the credit cards giants, apparently because China didn’t have to invade another country to get to them. MasterCard and Visa, however, don’t do huge business in China anyway, because the Chinese have their own credit card system, UnionPay. So in effect, what MasterCard and Visa have done is bring Russia and China closer together. What could possibly go wrong?
Reuters reported Monday that MasterCard and Visa cards from Russian banks will stop working Thursday, and that “some local lenders would look to use China’s UnionPay system instead….The central bank added that many Russian banks plan to issue cards using UnionPay, a system it said was enabled in 180 countries.” That allows Russian citizens to hardly miss a beat, as they will be able to use UnionPay virtually everywhere they used MasterCard and Visa.
Meanwhile, American Express has now joined the “in” crowd, announcing Sunday that it, too, is suspending Russian operations, “in addition to the previous steps we have taken, which include halting our relationships with banks in Russia impacted by the U.S. and international government sanctions.” More business for the Chinese. It would seem that MasterCard and Visa, like so many others, have shot themselves in the foot with their virtue-signaling, and set a disquieting precedent for shutting down the accounts of anyone whose political opinions are disliked by the political and media elites.
Yet obviously their outrage is selective and inconsistent. The plight of the Uighurs has never aroused any outrage comparable to that which has been sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s clear that Visa and MasterCard, like so many corporations, is not so much interested in standing up for human rights for all as it is in protecting itself against a storm of woke outrage. Until “The View” and Rachel Maddow start talking about China’s human rights abuses, those abuses just don’t exist, and corporations need take no action. But you can be absolutely certain that once someone who dissents from the Leftist agenda starts to gain traction, MasterCard and Visa will pull the rug out from under his or her feet. The precedent has been set.
The strengthening of economic ties between Russia and China also bodes ill for the future. If we don’t end up in a world war this week, we will be facing a revitalization of the old Cold War-era ties between two powerful nations that are fundamentally antagonistic to the United States. Whether or not that antagonism needs to exist is another matter altogether. It is likely that tensions with Russia would not be so high if the Democrats hadn’t pulled off the Russian collusion hoax and made Russia the all-purpose scapegoat in their attempt to destroy Trump and his followers. Putin would have had no argument about the expansion of NATO encircling Russia if the question of NATO membership had been handled less recklessly. And if the U.S. had not outsourced so much of our economy to China, we would not feel the effects of its antagonism so keenly. Ultimately, however, these considerations are immaterial for geopolitical considerations today: Russia and China are antagonistic to the U.S. and are getting closer to each other, and in the age of Old Joe Biden and the Left’s near-total dominance of the government and media, that is not a good situation.
What should MasterCard and Visa have done? Either act consistently on political matters, or not act at all. The latter would have been preferable, as then the credit card giants would not have signaled so clearly to conservatives that our day is coming, and the age of financial institutions being available to any law-abiding citizen regardless of his or her political views is coming to an end. In the meantime, Biden’s handlers will have to deal with all the many and various ramifications of the new closeness between Russia and China, and given their abysmal track record, they are certain to handle that also in a way that maximizes the harm done to American citizens.