IRCC’s reliance on McKinsey explains a ‘disconnect’ between money spent and value added, immigration lawyers say

More on McKinsey and IRCC. Hearing some concerns from within IRCC as well:

The decision by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada to hire McKinsey and Company to mobilize its digital transformation explains what immigration lawyers are calling a ‘disconnect’ between the resources being put into IRCC and the results it’s produced.

Barbara Jo (BJ) Caruso, an immigration lawyer speaking on behalf of the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (CILA), said when she heard about contracts IRCC had with McKinsey, “a light bulb went on.

“We were then able to sort of connect the dots and say, ‘Okay, now maybe this makes sense why everything’s been sort of haphazard, and pieced together,’ ” she said. 

At the beginning of January, a Radio-Canada report revealedthat the Canada branch of global consulting firm McKinsey and Company had seen a marked increase in the number of contracts it had been awarded by the federal government since 2015. In fact, the government later confirmed it had awarded McKinsey a total of 23 contracts at a cost of $101.4-million since 2015. By comparison, Stephen Harper’s government had spent $2.2-million on the firm throughout its nine year tenure. 

There’s been a disconnect, Caruso said, between the amount of money going into the department and the results it’s been able to produce, adding there’s been a lot of changes made, but “essentially no consultation from our vantage point.” 

“We’ve been perplexed by the amount of money that has been designated to the department and yet, we’re not really reaping the benefits of those financial contributions. We’ve got bigger backlogs than we’ve ever had, and probably the lowest client service standards, ever. And a diminishing trust from the public in the whole immigration system,” she said. 

The House Government Operations and Estimates Committee (OGGO), headed by Conservative MP Kelly McCauley, agreed over the break to undertake a study of the government’s contracts with McKinsey, particularly given this government’s relationship with Dominic Barton, who was Canada’s ambassador to China from 2019 to 2021, head of the Trudeau government’s advisory panel on economic growth, and prior to both those appointments, global managing director at McKinsey and Company between 2009 and 2018. It’s expected to call a total of seven ministers to testify before the committee, as well as top McKinsey executives, and Barton. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) said he welcomes the committee’s probe to determine whether there was “value for money” in the work McKinsey did. 

McKinsey spokesperson Alley Adams said the firm “welcomes the [committee] review of the services we deliver to the federal government.” 

“We look forward to working with the committee to resolve its questions and clarify relevant issues. We are proud of the contributions our firm has had across the public sector and are focused on working with the committee to discuss our impact in detail,” Adams said in an emailed statement. 

McKinsey and Company was a key player in the department’s “transformation agenda” since 2018, when it was awarded a $2.9-million contract to assess the department’s operations and “recommend a way forward for its transformation agenda,” according to IRCC.

Based on McKinsey’s assessment, “and IRCC’s own analysis of its operating context,” IRCC launched its transformation program in 2019, with the overarching goals of improving its operations. 

In 2019, McKinsey and Company was hired for a second contract to set “the service transformation agenda in motion.” According to IRCC, the contract focused on “reviewing, developing, and implementing digital tools, processes, and services.” It was initially valued at $16.37-million, but was later amended to add $8.47-million, bringing the total to $24.8-million. 

“Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, IRCC was faced with an immediate need to further accelerate the development and implementation of digital products and services. That is why the contract was amended in 2021 to help IRCC respond to these pandemic-driven pressures, manage increased volumes, and sustain core client services,” the department added. 

For its part, McKinsey has stressed that it was only involved in non-partisan, government operations, and did not influence policy.

“We work on independent research, economic and sector-based insights, in addition to core management topics such as the reduction of document processing backlogs, digitization of processes, technology strategy, operational improvements, and change management. This work does not include policy development and/or political advice. We support the service delivery objectives pursued by
the professional public servants who lead the departments and agencies we serve,” McKinsey said in a statement issued to media. 

However, Toronto-based immigration lawyer Maureen Silcoff—a former decision-maker at IRCC herself—said she doesn’t think the distinction between the two is so obvious. 

“I’m not sure that there’s really a bright line that can be drawn between the immigration policies and the immigration systems,” said Silcoff, who also sits on the executive of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers. “In the immigration context, [systems] necessarily impact the way laws and policies are implemented, or operationalized.” 

“Efficiency is crucial, but whatever measures are put in place, and have been put in place, have to be alert to the sensitivities of the population affected, which we know involves, very often, racialized people and vulnerable people,” she added.

The move towards digitizing and automating processes at IRCC has already proven to be a sticky process. 

The department has already been the subject of systemic racism allegations, and as the House Citizenship and Immigration Committee heard last March, artificial intelligence, and immigration expert witnesses expressed concern that systemic racism and bias would be embedded in any automated processes the department employs. 

“There’s advantages to algorithms, to artificial intelligence, to web-based portals, but they do come with a cost, and if attention is not paid to the frailties, there could be serious human rights implications,” Silcoff said. 

“A digitized refugee portal, for example. Is that accessible to vulnerable people, people arriving in Canada who have been subjected to torture or remain traumatized, who are new to the country and the systems?” 

An element that further exacerbates this challenge is who can access the portals on behalf of the applicant. 

One complaint Caruso and CILA have with IRCC currently is that lawyers cannot access certain online portals on behalf of their clients. 

According to IRCC, as part of its work on the department’s “digital transformation,” McKinsey helped design, develop, and launch an online citizenship application, which “enabled clients to apply digitally and IRCC to continue business throughout the pandemic.” 

However, Caruso said lawyers have not been able to access this portal on behalf of their clients, which she said is an impediment not only to their work, but to the efficiency of the department as well. 

“In our dialogue with the department, they absolutely recognize the role that counsel plays, that we can add value to the process, eliminate applications that have missing documents, because typically with good counsel, it’s a more complete application. There’s less back and forth and it means they can get to a decision sooner,” she said. 

It struck her and CILA as strange, then, when the department decided to roll out a portal that didn’t allow lawyers to access it. 

“For us, there has been this disconnect with the rollout of the technology and our role in the process. And now it sort of makes sense that it wasn’t the department, but an external player that maybe doesn’t appreciate the role that legal counsel can have in simplifying and ensuring efficiency,” she said. 

NDP MP Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.), her party’s immigration critic, said she’s eager to hear more about exactly what work McKinsey was contracted to do for IRCC, but added that overall, departmental work should be done in-house. 

Kwan said the fact that IRCC, along with the Canada Border Services Agency, spent the most money on McKinsey contracts of any department tells her “there’s very little transparency within IRCC.” 

“It’s just so concerning that there’s this discovery of these contracts and the government is anything but transparent about it,” she said, after describing a lack of transparency at IRCC as a “black hole.” 

“It just really speaks to the black hole that exists within IRCC. And it is deeply concerning,” she said.

Source: IRCC’s reliance on McKinsey explains a ‘disconnect’ between money spent and value added, immigration lawyers say

Labelle: L’immigration, McKinsey et le diktat de la mobilité internationale

Of interest although I think she overstates the reduction of state powers due to increased mobility:

Romain Schué et Thomas Gerbet viennent de dévoiler, le 4 janvier dernier, l’influence de la firme américaine McKinsey sur la politique d’immigration du gouvernement Trudeau et les coûts faramineux payés à cette entreprise. Cette firme aurait conseillé l’accueil de 465 000 immigrants en 2023 pour atteindre 500 000 en 2025, dont 60 % seraient de la catégorie économique. A-t-elle aussi conseillé l’augmentation fulgurante des travailleurs temporaires ? Le contrôle des frontières et des demandeurs d’asile ? Une transformation démographique du Canada postnational dont se vante Justin Trudeau ? Une réorganisation du système informatique, une meilleure gestion des passeports (ce serait alors une faillite) ? L’information est bloquée pour le moment. Mais de quel droit tout cela ?

Faut-il s’étonner de ce recours à une multinationale pour influer sur les affaires internes canadiennes ? Non, si on le met en relation avec le développement hégémonique d’une théorie sociologique de la mobilité qui domine aujourd’hui au point de rendre les gouvernements dépendants des multinationales comme McKinsey.

Pour comprendre ce changement de paradigme, un retour en arrière s’impose.

Le paradigme de la mobilité adopté par le fédéral depuis des décennies

Le paradigme de la mobilité (mobility studies) n’a fait que se renforcer depuis la fin des années 1990. En 2005, le sociologue John Urry publiait un texte édifiant et quelque peu délirant dans Les Cahiers internationaux de sociologie pour décrire le monde en mouvement : demandeurs d’asile, terroristes, touristes, diasporas, étudiants internationaux, entrepreneurs, sportifs, randonneurs, prostituées sont en mouvement, écrivait-il. Le sociologue reprochait à ses pairs d’avoir négligé le phénomène de la mobilité et d’avoir jusqu’ici insisté plutôt sur le rôle de structures sociales figées au sein de la société ou de l’État-nation obsolète.

John Urry en appelait à une « reformulation de la sociologie dans sa phase post-sociétale », dont l’objet majeur ne serait plus les sociétés dans leur spécificité, mais « les diverses mobilités des peuples, des objets, des images, des informations et des déchets [sic] ». Depuis, ce paradigme concurrence diverses perspectives « post » , y compris la thèse de la superdiversité, très en vogue dans les universités anglophones, où l’on parle avec une délicatesse douteuse « d’itinérants transculturels ». Le multiculturalisme est pour ainsi dire dépassé, on nage désormais dans l’univers trans. Toutes remettent en cause les frontières politiques et symboliques des États-nations, ainsi que les significations de la citoyenneté et de l’appartenance.

Cette mouvance est à mettre en relation avec la création du réseau international Metropolis fondé en 1996 à l’initiative du ministre Sergio Marchi, et dont Meyer Burstein a été codirecteur exécutif, ainsi qu’avec le discours du fédéral sur la rentabilisation du multiculturalisme et la stratégie d’innovation du Canada. En 2004, le document « Élaboration de l’analyse de rentabilisation du multiculturalisme » précisait que les transilient immigrants font partie d’une nouvelle « classe créative », apte à mobiliser leurs réseaux internationaux en vue d’investissements et de bonnes pratiques commerciales.

Les immigrants et les « minorités visibles » y sont vus comme « un réservoir de compétences culturelles et linguistiques auquel les industries canadiennes peuvent faire appel pour leurs opérations à l’étranger ou pour prendre de l’expansion sur les marchés internationaux », écrivait déjà en 2004 l’ex et puissant directeur d’Immigration et Citoyenneté Canada, Meyer Burstein.

Les liens que les diverses « communautés culturelles et raciales entretiennent avec presque tous les pays du monde sont synonymes de prospérité économique et ont contribué à susciter l’intérêt du gouvernement du Canada à l’égard du multiculturalisme », statuait à son tour Patrimoine canadien (2005). On ne peut donc s’étonner du recours aux tentacules internationaux de la firme McKinsey. Et Justin Trudeau ne peut être que d’accord avec ce niveau d’interférence dans un pays qu’il conçoit et présente comme postnational.

Les effets pervers de la mobilité sur les personnes et le pouvoir des États

L’immigration internationale concerne plusieurs catégories de personnes aux statuts social et politico-juridique différents. Or, les pays doivent choisir entre deux catégories principales de transfrontaliers sur le plan économique : les travailleurs étrangers qualifiés, hautement mobiles, et les travailleurs non qualifiés.

La mobilité des premiers est vue comme un signe d’ouverture envers le pays d’accueil. Désirable sur le plan économique, elle ne pose pas de défis d’intégration, soutient-on à tort. Dans cette perspective, la chasse aux cerveaux (ou plutôt l’exode des cerveaux, vu sous un autre angle) apparaît souhaitable pour les États demandeurs et les institutions qui ont besoin de professionnels ou d’étudiants internationaux afin de favoriser l’investissement, la recherche et l’innovation.

Au contraire, les mouvements de la main-d’oeuvre à bon marché et souvent déclassée sont à contrôler afin de ne pas provoquer un sentiment d’envahissement dans la société d’accueil. C’est la raison pour laquelle cette force de travail fait l’objet d’un sempiternel débat public sur la naturalisation, l’intégration civique et les exigences linguistiques. Sans compter qu’en Amérique du Nord, pour un immigrant indépendant jouissant du statut de résidence, on compterait une cinquantaine d’immigrants parrainés, compte tenu des réseaux et des liens transnationaux des migrants.

Enfin, ce paradigme de la mobilité provoque également l’obligation de repenser les notions de citoyenneté et de souveraineté de l’État, jugées obsolètes dans un monde globalisé. Les chercheurs ont beau spéculer sur la beauté du transnationalisme, on peut pourtant constater que tous les États aspirent à contrôler l’immigration selon leurs intérêts propres en matière de sécurité et d’ordre public, de légalité, de réunification des familles, de dépenses publiques et de problèmes urbains, d’intégration sociale et politique, voire d’identité nationale. En ce sens, le paradigme de la mobilité véhiculé par des instances supraétatiques ne peut qu’entamer le pouvoir de l’État.

Enfin, il serait intéressant de savoir ce que pensent les conseillers de McKinsey sur les dysfonctionnements et l’éventuelle crise sociale qu’entraîne la mobilité incarnée par la traversée du chemin Roxham. Les demandeurs d’asile qui arrivent par milliers aux frontières comptent-ils dans l’objectif des 465 000 à 500 000 migrants souhaités sur cinq ans ? En dépit du fait que ce système donne lieu à de l’exploitation, à un trafic reconnu et à des réseaux internationaux de passeurs bien organisés et sans doute sans pitié ? Une situation que le gouvernement Trudeau ne semble pas avoir le courage de regarder en face et devant laquelle le Québec semble impuissant.

Source: L’immigration, McKinsey et le diktat de la mobilité internationale

Yakabuski: The Trudeau government seems awfully cozy with McKinsey – and that demands scrutiny

More questioning of the role that McKinsey has played and continues to play in Canada.

Had some experience while at Service Canada working with high level consultants (not McKinsey) and, while they were instrumental in helping develop frameworks and strategies, it was a challenge to ensue they and us as public servants remained focussed on where their contribution was most needed.

And overall, government needs to focus on strengthening its policy and program capacity rather than over relying on outside expertise whose private sector expertise, while useful, is sometimes an unrealistic fit for the government context.

The money quote “Wedge yourself in and spread like an amoeba” applies more broadly than McKinsey:

Business schools across the country would do well to undertake a case study on McKinsey & Co.’s remarkable success in winning contracts from the federal government since Justin Trudeau’s Liberals took power. There, they’ll find insights into how Ottawa really works.

McKinsey, the pedigreed consulting firm that has been plagued by a series of conflict-of-interest scandals spanning several countries, has been practically wedded at the hip to Mr. Trudeau’s government since the firm’s then-global managing partner, Dominic Barton, was picked to head up Ottawa’s advisory council on economic growth in 2016.

Out of the supposed generosity of its heart, McKinsey provided pro bono research support to the council. We are told that this had absolutely no influence on the Trudeau government’s subsequent awarding of a string of multimillion-dollar contracts to the firm, including, as The Globe and Mail reported last year, a $24.8-million deal to advise the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on “transformation strategies,” whatever that means.

This week, Radio-Canada arrived at its own tally of federal contracts awarded to McKinsey since Mr. Trudeau’s government was first elected in 2015: While the firm earned a mere $2.2-million in federal government work when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were in power between 2006 and 2015, it has pocketed more than $66-million in less than seven years under the Liberals.

And even that sum, Radio-Canada conceded, does not provide a complete picture, since it leaves out contracts awarded by Crown corporations such as the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada. The government’s response to an order paper question submitted by Conservative MP Tako Van Popta included $84-million in federal payments to McKinsey in the 18 months up to November on various contracts. That total includes payments to BDC and EDC.

Bloc Québécois MP Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe asked Immigration Minister Sean Fraser to provide the details of McKinsey’s IRCC contracts at a meeting of the House of Commons immigration committee in November. Mr. Fraser referred the question to his deputy minister, Christiane Fox, who in turn asked assistant deputy minister Hughes St-Pierre to answer, though not before adding: “I’d like to point out that one of the contracts that McKinsey was awarded in the past was to deliver a training program for our Black employees wanting to move into a leadership position within the department.” As if diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives justify everything.

Mr. St-Pierre was equally unhelpful. “It was to advise us on how to transform the department,” was all he said of the largest and most recent contract the department handed to McKinsey.

The advisory council Mr. Barton headed called for a 50-per-cent increasein the number of permanent residents Canada accepts annually, from 300,000 in 2016 to 450,000 in 2021, to boost economic growth and reduce the old-age dependency ratio. The Trudeau government has gone even further than the council recommended, announcing plans in November to boost immigration numbers to 500,000 newcomers by 2025.

How Canada’s chronically backlogged immigration system can handle this surge is anyone’s guess. Whether McKinsey’s advice is worth the taxpayer money paid to the firm is equally impossible to discern. Ottawa refuses to provide a full accounting of the work McKinsey performed, or to make public any report the firm produced.

The chronology of McKinsey’s ever deepening business relationship with the federal government will not surprise anyone who has studied the strategies the firm has employed in any of the 65 countries in which it operates.

“Wedge yourself in and spread like an amoeba,” a senior McKinsey partner once said in explaining to young recruits how to win business from potential clients. “Once in, you should spread yourself in the organization and do everything.” The quote is included in When McKinsey Comes to Town, a recent book about McKinsey’s global activities by Walt Bogdanich and Michael Forsythe that examines the firm’s underbelly.

Can you draw a straight line between Mr. Barton’s cozy relationship with the Liberal government – Mr. Trudeau named him as Canada’s ambassador to China shortly after he stepped down from the top job at McKinsey – and the firm’s ability to win contracts in Ottawa? Is it just a coincidence that McKinsey landed a juicy deal to provide advice on how to transform the immigration department just after the advisory council Mr. Barton headed recommended transforming Canada’s immigration system?

These are not banal questions. Similar ones are swirling around French President Emmanuel Macron, whose government has also awarded countless contracts to McKinsey in recent years. French authorities have opened an investigation into the potential illegal financing of Mr. Macron’s 2017 and 2022 election campaigns. Among other things, the authorities are probing whether McKinsey associates worked on Mr. Macron’s campaigns for free as a networking opportunity that subsequently yielded lucrative paid contracts.

Wedge yourself in and spread like an amoeba, indeed.

Source: The Trudeau government seems awfully cozy with McKinsey – and that demands scrutiny

Dutrisac: La prison pour asile

Interesting example of turning an opinion column on migrant detention centres into reinforcing Dutrisac’s legitimate concern over the declining weight of Quebec given its lower immigration levels, with a barb thrown in regarding McKinsey and Dominic Barton:

C’est en janvier 2017 que Justin Trudeau a lancé son tweet où il invitait « ceux qui fuient la persécution, la terreur, la guerre » à débarquer au Canada — « sachez que le Canada vous accueillera », écrivait-il. Six ans plus tard, le gouvernement fédéral a inauguré un nouveau centre de détention pour incarcérer certains demandeurs d’asile. On peut penser qu’à l’époque, un tel développement n’avait pas effleuré l’esprit du premier ministre canadien.

Dans ce tweet innocent, Justin Trudeau fait preuve d’une bonne dose d’inconscience, si ce n’est d’hypocrisie, car le Canada, aussi vaste et généreux le croit-on, ne peut raisonnablement accueillir les dizaines de millions de personnes qui sont forcées tous les ans de quitter leur pays.

Comme nous l’apprenait Le Devoir dans son édition de samedi, Ottawa a inauguré en octobre à Laval un centre de détention pour les demandeurs d’asile et les immigrants temporaires, ce qu’on appelle par euphémisme un « centre de surveillance ». Construit au coût de 50 millions, le nouveau centre remplace d’anciennes installations jugées vétustes. L’Agence des services frontaliers du Canada (ASFC), de laquelle relève le centre, en a profité pour augmenter le nombre de places pour le porter à 153, contre 109 pour l’ancien bâtiment. Seulement 66 « détenus » s’y trouvaient à la fin décembre, tandis que les centres correctionnels administrés par Québec en accueillaient une quinzaine. Les pensionnaires de cette prison fédérale « dorée », mais prison quand même puisqu’ils ne peuvent en sortir à moins d’être libérés, ont la particularité de n’avoir commis aucun crime qui justifierait leur détention. Des papiers qui ne sont pas en règle, des doutes sur l’identité du ressortissant étranger ou des risques de fuite sont évoqués par l’agence pour justifier cette mesure de « dernier recours ». Comme dans les vraies prisons, les détenus n’ont pas droit à leur cellulaire, ni accès à Internet ; on peut se demander pourquoi.

Les organismes de défense des libertés civiles comme Amnistie internationale dénoncent l’incarcération de ces migrants qui n’ont commis aucun crime. Contrairement au Québec et à l’Ontario, la Colombie-Britannique a mis fin à l’entente avec l’ASFC visant la détention de migrants dans des prisons provinciales. L’Alberta et la Nouvelle-Écosse ont annoncé qu’elles en feraient autant. Depuis 2015, il y aurait eu 8000 de ces détenus au Canada — la période de détention moyenne est de 22 jours —, dont 2000 dans des prisons provinciales et le reste dans les trois centres de détention de l’ASFC.

C’est relativement peu considérant les millions de ressortissants étrangers qui sont entrés au pays depuis huit ans. Au Québec, par exemple, les quelque 80 migrants détenus actuellement se comparent aux 36 000 demandeurs d’asile qui seraient entrés par le chemin Roxham dans la seule année de 2022, ce qui s’ajoute aux dizaines de milliers de demandeurs, déjà présents sur le territoire québécois, qui sont toujours en attente d’une décision d’Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada (IRCC). Ou encore aux 150 000 demandeurs d’asile qui, selon Le Journal de Montréal, sont arrivés au Québec depuis cinq ans, soit 52 % du total canadien.

Or, que ce soit pour obtenir un permis de travail des autorités fédérales ou pour obtenir une réponse définitive sur le statut de réfugiés, les délais ne font que s’allonger. Pour les demandeurs d’asile qui passent par le chemin Roxham, ces délais peuvent s’étendre sur plusieurs années. Ceux dont la demande est rejetée ont le temps de s’établir ici avant de recevoir un avis d’éviction, éviction que nombre d’entre eux tenteront d’éviter en se réfugiant dans la clandestinité. Le système est dysfonctionnel, comme les autres volets de l’immigration. Dans ce contexte, on peut se demander à quoi peut bien servir la détention traumatisante d’une poignée de migrants.

Parmi les ministères fédéraux, c’est l’IRCC qui, depuis 2015, a dépensé le plus pour des conseils en gestion de la firme de consultants américaine McKinsey, a rapporté Radio-Canada. Or l’ironie, c’est que la désorganisation notoire de l’IRCC s’est aggravée en raison de l’accroissement pléthorique des seuils canadiens d’immigration, une recommandation de 2016 d’un comité formé par Ottawa et présidé par Dominic Barton, alors premier dirigeant mondial de McKinsey. Par la suite, le consultant a cofondé The Century Initiative, ou Initiative du siècle, un lobby qui promeut le projet de porter à 100 millions la population du Canada d’ici 2100.

Constater qu’à nos frais, nous participons dans ce pays, au sein duquel le Québec perdra inexorablement son poids démographique et donc politique, à une expérimentation sociale inédite concoctée par McKinsey n’a rien de rassurant.

Source: La prison pour asile

Disney Wanted to Make a Splash in China With ‘Mulan.’ It Stumbled Instead.

Companies as big as McKinsey and Disney can have equally big blind spots:

Executives at Walt Disney Studios were celebrating. “Mulan,” a $200 million live-action spectacle five years in the making, had arrived on Disney’s streaming service to strong reviews, with critics lauding its ravishing scenery and thrilling battle sequences.

The abundant controversies that had dogged “Mulan” over its gestation — false rumors that Disney was casting a white lead actress, calls for a boycott after its star expressed support for the Hong Kong police — had largely dissipated by Sept. 4, when the film arrived online. Success looked likely around the world, including the crucial market of China, where “Mulan” is set and where Disney hoped its release in theaters on Friday would advance the company’s hold on Chinese imaginations and wallets.

“In many ways, the movie is a love letter to China,” Niki Caro, the film’s director, had told the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Then the credits rolled.

Almost as soon as the film arrived on Disney+, social media users noticed that, nine minutes into the film’s 10-minute end credits, the “Mulan” filmmakers had thanked eight government entities in Xinjiang, the region in China where Uighur Muslims have been detained in mass internment camps.

Activists rushed out a new #BoycottMulan campaign, and Disney found itself the latest example of a global company stumbling as the United States and China increasingly clash over human rights, trade and security, even as their economies remain entwined.

Disney is one of the world’s savviest operators when it comes to China, having seamlessly opened Shanghai Disneyland in 2016, but it was caught flat-footed with “Mulan.” Top studio executives had not seen the Xinjiang credits, according to three people briefed on the matter, and no one involved with the production had warned that footage from the area was perhaps not a good idea.

The filmmakers may not have known what was happening there when they chose it as one of 20 locations in China to shoot scenery, but by the time a camera crew arrived in August 2018 the detention camps were all over the news. And all of this for what ended up being roughly a minute of background footage in a 1-hour-55-minute film.

Disney declined to comment.

Asked about the credits fiasco at a Bank of America conference on Thursday, Christine M. McCarthy, Disney’s chief financial officer, noted that it was common practice in Hollywood to credit government entities that allowed filming to take place. Although all scenes involving the primary cast were filmed in New Zealand, Disney shot scenery in China “to accurately depict some of the unique landscape and geography for this historic period drama,” Ms. McCarthy said.

“I would just leave it at that,” she said, before allowing that the credits had “generated a lot of issues for us.”

No overseas market is more important to Hollywood than China, which is poised to overtake the United States and Canada as the world’s No. 1 box office engine. Disney has even more at stake. The Chinese government co-owns the $5.5 billion Shanghai Disney Resort, which Disney executives have said is the company’s greatest opportunity since Walt Disney himself bought land in central Florida in the 1960s. Disney is also pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into upgrades at its money-losing Hong Kong Disneyland in hopes of creating a must-visit attraction for families.

Disney worked overtime to ensure that “Mulan” would appeal to Chinese audiences. It cast household names, including Liu Yifei in the title role and Donnie Yen as Mulan’s regiment leader. The filmmakers cut a kiss between Mulan and her love interest on the advice of a Chinese test audience. Disney also shared the script with Chinese officials (a not-uncommon practice in Hollywood) and heeded the advice of Chinese consultants, who told Disney not to focus on a specific Chinese dynasty

“If ‘Mulan’ doesn’t work in China, we have a problem,” Alan F. Horn, co-chairman of Walt Disney Studios, told The Hollywood Reporter last year.

The “Mulan” controversy underscores the dilemma companies face when trying to balance their core principles with access to the Chinese market. The Chinese government shut out the National Basketball Association last year after the general manager of the Houston Rockets shared an image on Twitter that was supportive of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The backlash cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars. (After mounting pressure from American politicians to sever ties with a basketball academy in Xinjiang, the N.B.A. disclosed in July that it had already done so.)

Disney has long argued that its infractions are unfairly magnified because its brand provides a convenient punching bag. A lot of American companies had operations in Xinjiang in 2018, and some still source goods there.

Apologizing for the Xinjiang credits could anger China and threaten the release of future movies. China blocked the release of Disney’s animated “Mulan” for eight months in the late 1990s after the company backed Martin Scorsese’s “Kundun,” a film seen as sympathetic to the Dalai Lama. The animated “Mulan” bombed in China as a result.

“On one hand, Disney supports Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement and has been responsive to calls for inclusion by making a movie like ‘Mulan’ with an all-Asian cast and a female director,” said Michael Berry, director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. “On the other, it has to be very careful on the topic of human rights in China. That’s business, of course, but it’s also hypocritical, and it makes some people angry.”

The political realities have shifted drastically since 2015, when Disney started working on “Mulan.” As part of its escalating confrontation with the Chinese government, the Trump administration has started to attack Hollywood for pandering to the country. In July, Attorney General William P. Barr criticized studios for making changes to films like “Doctor Strange” (2016) and “World War Z” (2013) to avoid trouble with China.

The pressure is not coming just from conservatives. PEN America, the free-speech advocacy group, on Aug. 5 released a major report on Hollywood’s censoring itself to appease China.

“Hollywood was already in the election-year cross hairs,” said Chris Fenton, the author of “Feeding the Dragon: Inside the Trillion Dollar Dilemma Facing Hollywood, the N.B.A. & American Business.” “This situation with ‘Mulan’ only makes it worse.”

At least 20 members of Congress have already written Disney to express outrage over the Xinjiang matter and demand more information.

It remains to be seen how “Mulan” will fare in China. The country’s 70,000 theaters have reopened, but most are still limiting capacity to 50 percent as a coronavirus precaution. Rampant piracy and chilly reviews could also cut into ticket sales.

On Friday, theaters in China were decked out with large posters of a fierce-looking Ms. Liu as Mulan, clad in a red robe and wielding a sword as her long black tresses billowed behind her. At one Beijing cinema, moviegoers were invited to test their archery skills.

By the end of the day, “Mulan” had taken in a humdrum $8 million. “The Lion King,” released last year, collected $13 million on its first day in China.

Detail-oriented Disney set out to make a movie that rang true to Chinese audiences in aspects big and small — much as the company approached Shanghai Disneyland. It infused the park with myriad Chinese elements and avoided classic Disney rides to circumvent cries of cultural imperialism.

“I had an army of Chinese advisers,” Ms. Caro, the film’s director, told the Xinhua News Agency. Many Chinese feel an intense ownership of the character of Mulan, having grown up learning about the 1,500-year-old “Ballad of Mulan” in school. The poem has been the source of inspiration for countless plays, poems and novels over the centuries.

In the quest to make a culturally authentic film — and to give “Mulan” sweep and scale — Disney sought to showcase the diverse scenery of China. In keeping with China’s rules on filming in the country, Disney teamed with a Chinese production company, which secured the necessary government permits. A crew filmed in the Xinjiang area for several days, including in the red sandstone Flaming Mountains near Turpan, said Sun Yu, a translator on the film.

“Usually when a lot of foreigners go to Xinjiang, officials there are pretty sensitive,” Ms. Sun said in an interview. “But actually our filming process went very smoothly because the local government was very supportive and understanding at the time.”

To find the perfect Mulan, Disney casting directors scoured the globe before choosing the Chinese-born Liu Yifei. To Disney, Ms. Liu was ideal: physically fit, a household name in China (for playing elegant maidens in martial arts dramas) and fluent in English, having spent part of her childhood in Queens.

Then, last summer, as tensions boiled in Hong Kong over the antigovernment protests, Ms. Liu reposted an image on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform, expressing support for the police there.

The backlash was swift. Prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activists quickly called for a boycott of the movie.

Mr. Horn told The Hollywood Reporter that her post had caught Disney by surprise. “We don’t wish to be political,” he said. “And to get dragged into a political discussion, I would argue, is sort of inherently unfair. We are not politicians.”

As Disney’s marketing campaign for “Mulan” ramped up this year, other contretemps surfaced. There were complaints about a lack of Asians among the core creative team; cries of sacrilege that Mushu, a wisecracking dragon in Disney’s animated version, had been jettisoned; and grumbles that this telling of the Mulan tale seemed to pander to Chinese nationalism.

The internet storms had mostly died down by the time “Mulan” arrived on Disney+ on Sept. 4. The credits changed that.

As many as one million Uighurs — a predominantly Muslim, Turkic-speaking ethnic minority — have been rounded up into mass detention centers in Xinjiang in what advocates of human rights have called the worst abuse in China in decades. The entities mentioned in the movie’s credits included a local police bureau that the Trump administration blacklisted last year from doing business with U.S. companies.

As the backlash over Xinjiang mounted, China ordered major media outlets to limit their coverage of “Mulan,” according to three people familiar with the matter.

Still, on Friday night, the Emperor Cinema in Beijing was set for a “Mulan” party.

Some moviegoers wore red, in homage to the title character, while others opted for a more traditional Chinese look: flowing robes and bejeweled hair accessories. After the screening, two traditional Chinese opera singers dressed in elaborate red-and-yellow costumes took the stage to perform an excerpt from a well-known Henan Opera rendition of “Mulan” called “Who Says Women Are Inferior to Men?”

The movie had already been playing in China, thanks to pirated versions on the internet. By Friday’s opening, there were more than 76,000 reviews on Douban, a popular Chinese review website. Most were tepid, averaging 4.7 out of 10 stars. (The 1998 animated version had 7.8 stars.)

In a review posted on Weibo, Luo Jin, a Chinese film critic who goes by the nom de plume Magasa, called the film “General Tso’s Chicken” — an Americanized take on Chinese culture.

“Some people are just going to be against these Hollywood takes on Chinese movies no matter how well made the movie might be,” Mr. Luo said in a phone interview. “For them, the thinking is like, ‘Who are you to appropriate our culture for your own benefit?’”


How McKinsey Makes Its Own Rules

Seems like our Ambassador to China got out at the right time…

It’s not easy being McKinsey & Company these days.

For most of its 90-odd-year existence, the prestigious management consultancy prided itself on remaining above the fray. McKinsey consultants plied the executive suites of Fortune 500 companies, counseling chief executives with discretion and quietly building a business that, with $10 billion in annual revenues, is now bigger than many of the entities it serves. The substance of the company’s work, and even the identities of its clients, lie concealed under an institutional code of silence. That reticence, enforced by a nondisclosure agreement, bedeviled Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign until last Monday, when McKinsey granted him a rare dispensation to reveal the names of his former clients.

On the occasions when McKinsey’s work has been scrutinized of late, it hasn’t reflected well on the firm. Reporting by The New York Times, ProPublica and others over the past 18 months has raised serious questions about how it does business at home and abroad: corruption allegations against companies McKinsey partnered with in South Africa and Mongolia; a federal criminal investigation into the firm’s bankruptcy practice in the United States; attempts to deny that it helped put into effect controversial Trump administration immigration policies; and evidence that McKinsey cherry-picked nonviolent inmates for a pilot project and made it seem that an attempt to curb violence at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex was working (it wasn’t). McKinsey has denied wrongdoing in each of these instances.

These and other examples of McKinsey’s recent conduct reveal a common dynamic. An examination of these episodes, including thousands of pages of documents and interviews with dozens of current and former McKinsey consultants and clients from multiple projects, suggests McKinsey behaves as if it believes the rules should bend to its way of doing things, not the other way around.

McKinsey’s self-regard has long been uncommonly high. In the firm’s 2010 internal history, a copy of which ProPublica obtained, partners compare the firm to the Marine Corps, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Jesuits: “analytically rigorous, deeply principled seekers of knowledge and truth,” the history’s authors write. One McKinsey partner went a step further, declaring without a hint of irony that the firm’s trait of shared values is more than “even the Catholic Church can promise.”

This attitude works for the firm in corporate consulting, an unregulated field where McKinsey’s reputation leaves it largely free to do things its own way and where its insistence on not being publicly credited has also shielded it from blame for its failures. But as McKinsey has expanded its consulting empire in recent years, it has taken on a growing book of work for government entities, as well as for corporate clients in areas subject to government oversight, such as advising bankrupt companies on restructuring.

In that field, consulting firms confront a web of contracting, disclosure and ethics rules that are designed to dictate and limit their behavior. These rules exist to prevent governments from wasting taxpayer money on underqualified or overpriced contractors and to protect government integrity and avoid conflicts of interests. In recent years, as McKinsey has burrowed deeper into this world, interviews and records show, it has developed a habit of disregarding inconvenient rules and norms to secure, retain and profit from government work.

Consider McKinsey’s imbroglios in South Africa and Mongolia. The firm did not follow the due diligence protocols commonly deployed to avoid running afoul of anti-corruption laws. The result: Its consultants found themselves working alongside dubious local companies that got them entangled in corruption investigations. Only after McKinsey became embroiled in the South Africa corruption scandal did the firm decide it needed to put more stringent safeguards in place.

In the United States, a damning but largely overlooked report issued in July by the Office of Inspector General for the General Services Administration, the hub for federal contracting, depicted McKinsey as ignoring rules and refusing to take no for an answer. The report examined McKinsey’s attempts to renew a major long-running contract in 2016. The firm was asked to provide additional pricing information to satisfy federal contracting rules. Rather than comply, McKinsey went over the contracting officer’s head, lodging complaints with top G.S.A. officials, who refused to exempt the firm from the rules.

Eventually, the firm found a friendly G.S.A. manager who was willing to not only award the contract, but also manipulated the G.S.A.’s pricing tools to increase the value of the contract by tens of millions of dollars. The report concluded the manager “violated requirements governing ethical conduct.”

The pattern repeated itself when McKinsey failed in multiple attempts to win a separate contract around the same time. Stymied, according to the report, McKinsey browbeat the contracting officer, threatening to resubmit the proposal until it got its way. The G.S.A. manager again intervened for reasons left unexplained by the report and McKinsey got its contract.

The report’s assessment of McKinsey’s behavior was withering, and it revealed that the firm subsequently used the same friendly manager to help secure contracts at three other federal agencies in 2017 and 2018. “Multiple contracting officers,” the inspector general wrote, told investigators that McKinsey’s requests were “inappropriate” and “a conflict of interest.”

The report recommended that the G.S.A. cancel the contracts, which as of earlier this year had earned McKinsey nearly $1 billion over a 13-year span. In a response to the report, the G.S.A. stated that it would ask McKinsey to renegotiate the contracts to lower the price. “If McKinsey declines” or “renegotiations do not yield a result in the government’s best interest,” the agency wrote, it would cancel them. Neither has happened to date, according to federal contracting records. A McKinsey spokesman said: “We have reviewed the report and the relevant facts, and have found no evidence of any improper conduct by our firm. We are in negotiations with G.S.A. and look forward to completing them soon.” A G.S.A. spokesperson said it is negotiating for “better pricing” and will not award McKinsey any further work under the contracts until those negotiations are concluded.

McKinsey has also taken steps to evade public accountability. As ProPublica reported, a senior partner leading McKinsey’s work at Rikers asked top corrections officials and members of the consulting team to restrict their communications to Wickr, an encrypted messaging app that deletes messages automatically after a few hours or days. That insulated some of McKinsey’s work from government oversight and public records requests. (“Our policies require colleagues to adhere to all relevant laws and regulations,” a McKinsey spokesman said. He neither confirmed nor denied the use of Wickr.)

Speaking more broadly, the McKinsey spokesman said: “We hear the calls for change. We are working hard to address the issues that have been raised.”

McKinsey has so far escaped serious repercussions for its reluctance to follow inconvenient rules. That could change next year.

Consultancies such as McKinsey, which advise companies restructuring under bankruptcy protection, are required to disclose potential conflicts of interest. For the past few years, McKinsey has been locked in a complicated set of court disputes with Jay Alix, the founder of a competing advisory firm, and with the Justice Department’s bankruptcy watchdog over whether McKinsey failed to follow bankruptcy disclosure rules, a subject The Times has covered in depth.

McKinsey has, since then, disclosed a number of new potential conflicts in old bankruptcy cases and paid $32.5 million to creditors and the United States trustee to settle claims over insufficient disclosures. The trustee has said that “McKinsey failed to satisfy its obligations under bankruptcy law and demonstrated a lack of candor.” The firm denies wrongdoing and says it settled “in order to move forward and focus on serving its clients.”

Subsequently, McKinsey has moved, in effect, to rewrite the rules. It drafted a protocol ostensibly meant to clarify what advisers like itself need to disclose. Critics pointed out that McKinsey’s protocol allows such firms to avoid disclosing relationships they deem indirect or “de minimis.”

There remains more to come. Apart from the criminal investigation, a judge in Houston has scheduled a trial in February to decide the merits of Mr. Alix’s allegations. The judge, David R. Jones, has described the trial in apocalyptic tones. It will be, Judge Jones has said, “the ultimate career ender for somebody.” For McKinsey, a trial would mean being called on to defend its work in public — with real accountability and real consequences for its actions. The firm might even benefit in the long run from the sunlight.

Source: How McKinsey Makes Its Own Rules

How McKinsey Helped the Trump Administration Carry Out Its Immigration Policies

Yet another illustration of McKinsey’s ethnical and moral blindspots (not as egregious as holding their conference in Xinjiang nor Huawei’s role in surveillance tech Huawei founder defends ‘seamless surveillance’ technology, dismisses criticism it enables human-rights abuses):

Just days after he took office in 2017, President Trump set out to make good on his campaign pledge to halt illegal immigration. In a pair of executive orders, he ordered “all legally available resources” to be shifted to border detention facilities, and called for hiring 10,000 new immigration officers.

The logistical challenges were daunting, but as luck would have it, Immigration and Customs Enforcement already had a partner on its payroll: McKinsey & Company, an international consulting firm brought on under the Obama administration to help engineer an “organizational transformation” in the ICE division charged with deporting migrants who are in the United States unlawfully.

ICE quickly redirected McKinsey toward helping the agency figure out how to execute the White House’s clampdown on illegal immigration.

But the money-saving recommendations the consultants came up with made some career ICE workers uncomfortable. They proposed cuts in spending on food for migrants, as well as on medical care and supervision of detainees, according to interviews with people who worked on the project for both ICE and McKinsey and 1,500 pages of documents obtained from the agency after ProPublica filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.

Automation Could Displace 800 Million Workers Worldwide By 2030, Study Says : All Tech Considered : NPR

Impact on labour force needs and immigration levels needs to be considered (most advocates for immigration increases are silent on the issue):

A coming wave of job automation could force between 400 million and 800 million people worldwide out of a job in the next 13 years, according to a new study.

A report released this week from the research arm of the consulting firm McKinsey & Company forecasts scenarios in which 3 percent to 14 percent of workers around the world — in 75 million to 375 million jobs — will have to acquire new skills and switch occupations by 2030.

“There are few precedents” to the challenge of retraining hundreds of millions of workers in the middle of their careers, the report’s authors say.

The impact will vary between countries, depending on their wealth and types of jobs that currently exist in each. In 60 percent of jobs worldwide, “at least one-third of the constituent activities could be automated,” McKinsey says, which would mean a big change in what people do day-to-day.

McKinsey looked at 46 countries and more than 800 different jobs in its research.

In the year 2030 in countries with “advanced economies,” a greater proportion of workers will need to learn new skills than in developing economies, researchers say. As many as a third of workers in the U.S. and Germany could need to learn new skills. For Japan, the number is almost 50 percent of the workforce, while in China it’s 12 percent.

Jobs that pay “relatively lower wages” and aren’t as predictable are less likely to face full automation, because businesses don’t have as much incentive to spend on the technology. This applies to jobs like gardening, plumbing and child care, according to the authors.

Occupations that pay more but involve managing people and social interactions face less risk of automation due to the inherent difficulty in programming machines to do those types of tasks.

In the short term, automation and new technology could mean “significant” displacement of workers, the report says. But the authors argue that in the long term as technology has changed, “it creates a multitude of new jobs, more than offsetting” the number of those lost.

They note, however, those new jobs don’t always pay as much as the old ones.

A rising middle class in countries like China and India, and with it more consumption, will have a big impact on the direction of economies. “As incomes rise, consumers spend more on all categories,” the report says. “But their spending patterns also shift, creating more jobs in areas such as consumer durables, leisure activities, financial and telecommunication services, housing, health care, and education.”

Many countries are getting older as well — Japan is a notable example. And McKinsey researchers expect aging populations to need more medical care — more doctors, nurses, home health workers and aides — while demand goes down for children’s teachers and doctors.

Tech jobs will be needed as technology advances, like “computer scientists, engineers and IT administrators,” who could see job growth as companies spend more in this area, the report says.

Jobs gained “could more than offset the jobs lost to automation,” the researchers say. But, they say, “it will require businesses and governments to seize opportunities to boost job creation and for labor markets to function well.”

The McKinsey researchers recommend “an initiative on the scale of the Marshall Plan involving sustained investment, new training models, programs to ease worker transitions, income support and collaboration between the public and private sectors” to help economies and employment grow in the future.

via Automation Could Displace 800 Million Workers Worldwide By 2030, Study Says : All Tech Considered : NPR