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The NBA’s initial response to the controversy in China demonstrates the lack of preparedness of many U.S. businesses that operate in the country, Dartmouth College’s Paul Argenti told CNBC on Wednesday.

“It shows the lack of planning that goes into thinking about doing business in places like China, and I’ve seen this with lots of other companies before,” the Tuck School of Business professor said on “Power Lunch.” “You have to be political.”

The NBA’s first statement said the reaction to Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey‘s tweet supporting Hong Kong protesters, which set off the controversy, was “regrettable.”

But it also affirmed the league’s support of people “sharing their views on matters important to them.”

“That’s more than most companies would do, but you could see they were trying to thread that needle — not really offend China, not really support [Morey],” said Argenti, a professor of corporate communication.

“I think that’s the worst place to be,” he added, noting it is important to “come out strong.” “And what’s wrong with supporting freedom of speech, which is not really the only issue here. It seems like something that should be easy for the NBA to do.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a second statement Tuesday that reiterated the league’s support for freedom of expression.

The fallout for the league continues to deepen. Almost all of the NBA’s Chinese partners have publicly announced that they are ending or suspending their relationships with the league in the days since Morey sent his now-deleted tweet that read, “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong.”

Morey apologized, but it has not prevented backlash toward the league from mainland China.

China is the NBA’s most important international market, and the league — like many other American companies since China opened its market to the world, in 1979 — has worked to establish a strong presence in the country.

But China’s repressive regime — from media censorship to human rights abuses — presents challenges to businesses operating there, some argue.

“You have to think about what your values are and what you’re willing to stand for,” Argenti said. “I think, for the most part, companies and a lot of individuals give lip service to freedom and freedom of speech, and then when push comes to shove, they do what is most expedient to make the money that is there in China.”

But in this situation, the NBA is different than some other American companies who operate in China, Argenti said.

“The NBA has an opportunity here because they have leverage and they are a very successful operation that China would like, so they should take advantage of that,” he said.

Motus One CEO Mike Jackson, an expert in marketing and communication, said the NBA is well aware of the topics it should stay away from in order to not offend Chinese officials.

Back when he was an executive at General Motors, Jackson said, some of those “taboo” areas would have been the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the country’s relationship with Tibet and Taiwan.

“It would be safe to say that Hong Kong would be added to that list today,” he said on “Power Lunch.”

“It’s clearly important for companies to really understand that just the sheer amount of consumerism taking place in China represents a big opportunity,” Jackson said. “But the NBA is a lot more savvy and unfortunately Mr. Morey opened his mouth at the wrong time.”

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Zilingo says it will help train women entrepreneurs in Indonesia

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The logo of Zilingo is displayed on a window at the company’s office in Singapore.

Ore Huiying | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Southeast Asian fashion start-up Zilingo on Wednesday said it is launching a program in Indonesia, where it will provide microloans, vocational training and resources for women to run their own garment manufacturing businesses.

Those micro-businesses would receive and fulfill small-scale apparel orders from fashion brands on Zilingo’s network. For its part, Zilingo will make money by taking a cut from every transaction.

Zilingo was founded in 2015 as an online marketplace where independent fashion and lifestyle retailers can sell directly to customers. Those retailers get access to suppliers from places like Bangladesh to procure their products, and Zilingo helps them with cross-border shipping, inventory management and customer service. Zilingo charges retailers commissions between 10% to 20%.

The program, called SheWorkz, is aimed at providing women with the resources and flexibility to return to the workforce, according to Zilingo CEO and co-founder Ankiti Bose.

“One of the biggest problems that we have, it’s not only a social challenge but an economic challenge in Asia, is just how many women are not in the workforce,” Bose told CNBC.

“And, there are several reasons for it — some are economic, but many are social. They’ve gotten married, they’ve had kids, they’ve fallen off the workforce.”

Women made up about 38.9% of Indonesia’s total labor force in 2018, while their participation rate was 52% compared to 82% for men, according to World Bank data.

Various studies have said having more women in the workforce can boost countries in their economic ambitions and help companies drive better profits.

The program is supported by Indonesia’s ministry of economic affairs and state-owned lenders Bank Mandiri and Bank Negara Indonesia. For the pilot project, Bose said Zilingo will start with about 300 women who used to work for the start-up’s manufacturing partners, but who eventually left the workforce. New participants will be sought out after that.

“What we’re doing is going and extending them an option to work from their homes with all the facilities provided by us,” Bose said. The goal is to increase the program’s capacity to about 5,000 women in Indonesia over the next 12 to 18 months, she added.

If the program is successful in Indonesia, then Zilingo intends to bring it to other countries like India, which has one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world.

Zilingo, which launched in the United States this month, has raised more than $308 million in funds and is backed by well-known names such as Sequoia Capital and Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings.

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Alibaba Group thwarts 300 million hack attempts per day

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Alibaba’s company logo at its office in Hong Kong on February 22, 2012.

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Chinese technology giant Alibaba Group is the target of some 300 million attempted cyber attacks per day, according to the company’s founder and former executive chairman, Jack Ma.

Ma said he was “proud” that despite the tirade of subterfuge, Alipay — the group’s payments arm which reports close to 1 billion users and processes $50 billion worth of transactions per day — has yet to lose “one cent” to hackers.

“For Alibaba Group, we have over 300 million hacking attempts per day. Every day. But we deal (with) it. We don’t have even one problem,” Ma said at the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore on Tuesday.

By way of contrast, embattled Chinese technology giant Huawei is subject to around 1 million daily cyberattacks, according to its security chief. Until now, other technology companies have been less forthcoming in revealing their cyber attack vulnerabilities.

Give my data to a machine. I trust a machine more than (I) trust people.

Jack Ma

Alibaba founder and former executive chairman

Alibaba faced a sweeping cyber attack attempt in February, which threatened to compromise the accounts of 20 million users on its Taobao e-commerce site. The company said it detected the attack “in the first instance.”

Ma cited the company’s advanced tech capabilities, which he dubbed “AI: Alibaba Intelligence,” for its continued success rate, noting that machines are superior to humans in using logic to thwart malicious online behavior.

“We teach the machine all the ways people (are) cheating,” said Ma. “The machine remembers over millions of ways of cheating, so when we start the cheating, (the) machine already knows you are cheating. In this way we are protecting all the technology.”

Jack Ma (right), co-founder and former executive chair of Alibaba Group, speaks next to Steve Forbes (left), chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes media, during the Forbes Global CEO Conference in Singapore on October 15, 2019.

Roslan Rahman | AFP | Getty Images

To achieve that degree of accuracy, however, Ma noted the company must collect vast swathes of customer data. He argued that doing so allowed Alibaba to develop safeguards to detect bad human actors.

“Give my data to a machine,” said Ma. “I trust a machine more than (I) trust people.”

“I give my data to people, I worry about that. People say ‘ah, this is Jack Ma, I want to know about him.’ Machine(s) don’t care if you’re Jack Ma or Jack Lee. Machine cares whether you do good things or bad things.”

Ma retired from Alibaba last month, 20 years after the company’s founding. At the conference in Singapore, he was honored with the Malcolm S Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award for his “outstanding” contributions to entrepreneurship.

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Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam annual policy address interrupted

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Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam leaves her annual policy address due to disruptions by pro-democracy lawmakers in the Legislative Council on October 16, 2019.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

Pro-democracy lawmakers shouted at Hong Kong embattled leader Carrie Lam on the floor of the legislature as she was set to deliver her annual speech on Wednesday.

Lam’s remarks were initially suspended amid disruption. As she was set to begin her address a second time, pro-democracy lawmakers interrupted her and some even threw objects at her. 

The proceedings were adjourned as the six democratic lawmakers were escorted out of the room. Lam also left the legislature’s chambers.

Lam was set to formally withdraw the extradition bill that sparked nearly five months of sometimes violent protests in the city.

She was expected to also focus on land and housing initiatives in a bid to restore confidence in the city’s future after months of anti-government protests that have crippled the city and dampened investor sentiment in the Asian financial hub.

Pro-democracy lawmakers wearing masks with the image of Chinese President Xi Jinping disrupt proceedings during the annual policy address of Carrie Lam on October 16, 2019.

Anthony Wallace | AFP | Getty Images

The semi-autonomous city battles to overcome its greatest political turmoil since 1997, when the former British colony was handed over to China. Hong Kong now operates under the “one country, two systems” principle, in which Beijing grants Hong Kong citizens financial and legal independence from the mainland.

This is breaking news. Please check back updates.

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