“We believe that our presence in China helps promote greater openness and facilitates the free flow of ideas and information… We are convinced that Apple can best promote fundamental rights, including the right of free expression, by being engaged even where we may disagree with a particular country’s law.” – Cynthia Hogan, Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs, Apple Inc. 11/02/2017
This year, Apple has removed hundreds of apps from its China Appstore under the Chinese government’s recent attempt to strengthen its notorious Great Firewall. The hundreds of removed apps include a significant number of 674 VPN services and one of the biggest communication service, Skype. Apple’s compliance with the local cyber security rules can be linked to its newly established iCloud data centre in Guizhou, China, of which would not be possible had Apple actively rejected China’s censorship.
Apple’s removal of apps not only alienate some developers, but also two U.S. senators, Patrick Leahy and Ted Cruz, who publicly asked Apple to push back against censorship in China.
In response to the senators’ letter, Apple claimed that not only does the Appstore remain a “powerful platform for human experssion…” without these hundreds of removed apps, but also that Apple can do a better job promoting human rights “by being engaged even where we may disagree with a particular country’s law.”
We find this response to be an utter hypocrisy as more than 1/5 of all Apple’s profits come from China and that the communist nation is the tech giant’s second-largest market. It would be a business suicide for Apple to disaffect the communist party for causes like human rights and freedom of speech, of which are great principles but not business savvy.
Last month China’s Tencent surpassed Facebook in valuation and became the first Asian tech firm to reach $500 billion. The growth of Tencent also made its founder, Pony Ma, richer than Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin, while both Google and Facebook are still blocked in China. The take-home message here can be summarised in one sentence: Show your unquestionable loyalty to the party, and we make you the richest man in the world.