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In "sensitive time" for Tsai, a pricey NYC condo purchase, notable new philanthropy, and more criticism for his reflexive defense of China

Joe Tsai, the billionaire Alibaba mogul, owner of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center operating company, has been in the news lately. A lot.

CNBC recently reported Billionaire Joe Tsai is the ‘mystery buyer’ behind $157 million Manhattan apartment deal, buying "two full-floor condo apartments at 220 Central Park South in two transactions totaling $157.5 million, say people close to the transaction." 

It's the third most expensive home ever sold in the United States, and vaults Tsai well past former Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov in terms of flashy spending. Monthly maintenance costs exceed $23,000, according to the New York Post.

From CNBC:
The purchase comes at a sensitive time for Tsai and Alibaba. Alibaba shares have fallen by a third since October, and Chinese authorities are cracking down on the country’s big tech companies to curb their power and data reach. Tsai’s fellow Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has largely retreated from public life after he criticized Chinese regulators and Beijing scuttled the initial public offering of his fintech giant Ant.
A generous profile

Just before the apartment news surfaced, Inside Philanthropy published 7/12/21 The Brooklyn Way: How A Billionaire Couple’s Philanthropy Evolved to Support Social Justice, interviewing Tsai and his wife Clara Wu Tsai:
The Tsais launched the Social Justice Fund through their foundation last year with a $50 million, 10-year commitment focused on racial justice and economic mobility in Brooklyn. They are also heavily involved with the criminal justice organization REFORM Alliance, of which Clara Wu Tsai is a founding partner. Other partners at REFORM Alliance include Jay-Z, Van Jones, Laura Arnold and Robert F. Smith. The Tsais also back the Black Voices for Black Justice Fund I wrote about last year, and Joe Tsai is a founding board member of the Asian American Foundation (TAAF), formed this year to help expand AAPI advocacy and representation in the United States.
Clara Wu Tsai explained how their philanthropy evolved from personal and institutional connections, including science and neuroscience research, and more recently economic mobility and social justice, focusing on Brooklyn.

It's hard to disentangle that, of course, from what might be necessary, in the era of Black Lives Matter, to maintain the Nets as a viable franchise and destination for players.

Unmentioned, of course, was Joe Tsai's much-criticized posture toward Hong Kong and Chinese policy.

Regarding China

The philanthropy comes at a time where Joe Tsai's statements unquestioningly backing the government of China have been "criticized by the right," to quote NetsDaily, citing essays in the National Review (Joseph Tsai’s Shameful Defense of the Hong Kong Crackdown) and the American Enterprise Institute.

Wrote the National Review's Jimmy Quinn:
Despite his pro-China commentary, Tsai remains accepted by polite society. Defending the Party’s actions is not too grave a sin in American public life today, and particularly not for a business leader. There are few costs currently to deter such behavior by a prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist, and that person can whitewash his support of a brutal regime with his extracurricular activities anyway.
Wrote AEI's Paul Wolfowitz regarding publisher Jimmy Lai of Hong Kong's now-closed Apple Daily:
The prospect of suffering for freedom Lai described as an “uplifting spirit” and a “great fortune,” in the sense of a “blessing” derived from his deeply religious perspective.

Lai’s words and life offer a model of noble resistance to tyranny. They also stand as a rebuke to those, like Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, who publicly champion dictatorship in conspicuous alignment with their business interests.
...The “stability” Tsai praises so warmly is what the Poles used to call the “stability of the graveyard” under Soviet rule.
NetsDaily's "Net Income" (aka Bob Windrem) noted that Wolfowitz was "one of the architects of the Iraq War" and observed:
Tsai is in fact stuck between the U.S. and Chinese interests. The U.S. regularly warns China about its human rights record and its international intentions. China, on the other hand, is cracking down hard on Chinese companies like Alibaba which use American stock exchanges to finance their growth. As a result, Alibaba, the main source of Tsai’s wealth, has tumbled on the New York Stock Exchange. It’s not a good place to be and there doesn’t seem to be much chance that things will get better anytime soon. So, our point is: watch this space.

Sure, Tsai's in a difficult spot. And, yes, people can be selective in their outrage, which prompts charges of hypocrisy.

But the Tsais' impressive philanthropy--the latest is a $220 million Wu Tsai Human Performance Alliance, studying "the biological principles contributing to peak performance in athletes," as per ESPN--should not be divorced from his business-inflected worldview.

And one more

It's not just the right. (I criticized him too, and I'm not "the right," but I'm small potatoes.)

It should also be mentioned that the centrist business website Quartz, via Asia bureau chief Tripti Lahiri, on 6/16/21 offered Corporate wokeness keeps falling short when it comes to China, making it clear:
Business leaders are increasingly comfortable expressing solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters’ demands for systemic change, as well as the fight against police brutality in the US—yet they fall silent or even take a seemingly opposite stance when it comes to human rights in China.
She wrote:
But then, companies—and therefore their leaders—usually say what they think their audiences want to hear. Corporations weren’t as vocal on US racial equality when they didn’t perceive the issue to be as important to their audience—consumers—and employees as it is today. And when it comes to the topic of Hong Kong, executives like Tsai have only one audience that they must make sure not to displease: the Communist Party of China. Alibaba, as he says in the interview, has 90% of its business in China.
Note that Quartz is owned by its managers and Lahiri for the past two years has been a judge of the Human Rights Press Awards, a not-for-profit organization based in Hong Kong, which recognizes top rights-related reporting from around Asia. The Awards are organized by The Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong, The Hong Kong Journalists Association and Amnesty International Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, troubling news about China surfaces regularly, such as ProPublica's 7/22/21 article Operation Fox Hunt: How China Exports Repression Using a Network of Spies Hidden in Plain Sight.

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