Big Tech and China

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Apple is deeply embedded in China, manufacturing most of its products there and conceding to demands from the Chinese government to censor content.

  • Apple has been manufacturing in China since 2001, with most iPhones, iPads, and Macs now manufacturing there.[1]
  • China is Apple’s third-largest revenue market, and Tim Cook has gone to great lengths to cultivate a positive relationship with Xi, making frequent visits to China and meeting with top leaders.[2]
  • Apple has invested in Chinese companies, including $1 billion in rideshare company Didi, and has a deal with China Mobile, the country’s largest telecom company.
  • Apple built data centers in China in order to comply with Chinese law, putting Chinese users’ data at risk. Encryption keys are stored in China, and Apple has handed over data from users’ iCloud accounts to the Chinese government.
  • Apple heavily censors its Chinese App Store, removing 91 percent of app takedown requests from the Chinese government, including news apps, encrypted apps, and gay dating apps, with Tim Cook personally approving some of the approvals. It has also removed apps used by Hong Kong protestors, removed the Taiwanese flag emoji from iPhone keyboards in China, and showed Taiwan as part of China on Maps. Apple is currently being sued by a former employee who claimed he was fired for not censoring a dissident’s app.[3][4]
  • At least seven of Apple’s suppliers in China used forced Uighur labor. In 2020, Apple lobbied against a bill meant to curb the use of forced labor in China.[5]
  • For its actions to appease the Chinese government, Apple has risen in the Chinese government’s social responsibility rankings, from No. 141 in 2016 to No. 30 in 2020.

Despite its search engine being banned in China, Google has built a presence there.

  • In 2017, Google opened an AI research center in Shanghai. CEO Sundar Pichai has attended state-run internet conferences in China.[6]
  • In 2018, Google began to internally develop a censored search engine in China but did not launch it after outcry from employees and human rights groups.[7]
  • In 2020, Google’s former head of policy in Asia alleged that his proposals to safeguard human rights in China were internally stonewalled and that he was fired for his human rights advocacy.[8]
  • In 2020, an Australian think tank released a report alleging that Google was using forced labor in China.[9]
  • Google has hired employees in China for manufacturing, cloud computing, business development, and more.[10]
  • A non-profit founded by Google and IBM worked with a company that was helping the Chinese government surveil millions of its citizens.[11]

Amazon has scaled-up its Chinese seller marketplace and partnered with a company complicit in genocide against the Uighurs.

  • In 2020, Amazon bought 1,500 cameras from Dahua, a company the Department of Commerce put on an entity blacklist for using AI to surveil and identify Uighurs[12] In 2021, Senators Menendez and Rubio wrote a letter to Jeff Bezos, noting that it appeared that Amazon knowingly did business with a company complicit in genocide.[13]
  • In 2019, the Wall Street Journal found that an increase in China-based sellers on Amazon led to an increase in counterfeit goods and goods that failed to meet U.S. regulatory requirements. Additionally, U.S. and Canadian-based sellers felt squeezed by competing with cheap low- quality goods sold by Chinese merchants on Amazon.[14]
  • In 2021, 75 percent of new sellers on Amazon were based in China. Amazon has made an effort to recruit China-based sellers, sending staff to China to do so.[15]
  • In 2021, Amazon lobbied against a Senate bill meant to protect U.S. consumers from counterfeit goods originating in China.[16]
  • Since 2013, Amazon has offered its AWS service in China, and has touted its expanded footprint.[17]
  • In 2020, an Australian think tank released a report alleging that Amazon was using forced labor in China.[18]

Despite its platform being banned in China, Facebook derives significant advertising revenue there and has failed to take action against state-run media ads.

  • Facebook derives $5 billion in advertising revenue from China, second only to the U.S. In 2020, Facebook set up an engineering team in Singapore to provide customer support to China-based advertisers.[19]
  • Since at least 2019, Chinese state media outlets have run promoted ads on Facebook aimed at U.S. users, claiming that Uighurs benefited from detention. Facebook declined to ban state-run media from running ads without independent editorial oversight, even as Twitter took action.[20]
    • In 2021, Chinese state media has continued with its disinformation campaign on Facebook, sparking employee complaints.[21]
  • In 2016, Facebook began to internally develop a censored version of its platform to allow it to operate in China, leading to employees quitting. The platform never launched.[22]