Who Says ‘Yes’ When the Chinese Government Makes a Demand? | National Review

Who Says ‘Yes’ When the Chinese Government Makes a Demand? | National Review

Then-White House Press Secretary Jay Carney arrives to in Swanton, Ohio, September 26, 2012. (Jason Reed/Reuters )

There’s a crude term that is used to describe fabulous and seemingly freeling levels of wealth: “[blank] you money.” That is when you have so much wealth, you can tell anyone, in any circumstance, “[blank] you” and not fear the consequences. You can walk away from any proposal, any deal, and suffer no fool gladly. You can live life on your terms, and never need to compromise what feels right to you. You never feel the need to go along with something that you think is wrong, unethical, or unwise, because of financial pressure.

You would like to think that if anyone on the planet had “[blank] you money,” it would be Jeff Bezos, currently the second-richest man on the planet behind Elon Musk, with an estimated net worth of $192 billion.

And yet, even with all that wealth, when the Chinese government demanded that Bezos’ company Amazon comply with a far-reaching censorship proposal… Bezos and Amazon agreed, according to Reuters:

Amazon.com Inc was marketing a collection of President Xi Jinping’s speeches and writings on its Chinese website about two years ago, when Beijing delivered an edict, according to two people familiar with the incident. The American e-commerce giant must stop allowing any customer ratings and reviews in China.

A negative review of Xi’s book prompted the demand, one of the people said. “I think the issue was anything under five stars,” the highest rating in Amazon’s five-point system, said the other person.

Ratings and reviews are a crucial part of Amazon’s e-commerce business, a major way of engaging shoppers. But Amazon complied, the two people said. Currently, on its Chinese site Amazon.cn, the government-published book has no customer reviews or any ratings. And the comments section is disabled.

That Reuters report offers an utterly depressing look at how Amazon knew what the Chinese government was doing, and chose to avert its eyes and treat it like just another customer:

An internal 2018 Amazon briefing document that describes the company’s China business lays out a number of “Core Issues” the Seattle-based giant has faced in the country. Among them: “Ideological control and propaganda is the core of the toolkit for the communist party to achieve and maintain its success,” the document notes. “We are not making judgement on whether it is right or wrong.”

And one of the key players in the Amazon-China relationship is a familiar name:

The 2018 briefing document spells out the strategic stakes of the China Books project for Jay Carney, the global head of Amazon’s lobbying and public-policy operations, ahead of a trip he took to Beijing. “Kindle has been operating in China in a policy grey area,” the document stated, and noted that Amazon was having difficulty obtaining a license to sell e-books in the country.

“The key element to safeguard” against its license problem with the Chinese government “is the Chinabooks project,” the document stated.

So the Obama administration’s former White House Press Secretary is helping Amazon and China work together on ensuring criticism of the Chinese government never reaches Chinese readers. (Hey, remember when conservatives and libertarians noticed the Soviet propaganda posters on the wall of the Carney house, and it was a sign of how we were paranoid and humorless and the art selection indicated nothing about how Carney sees the world or his values? Good times, good times.)

You can find a lot of books critical of China on Amazon, available for sale in other countries. And Amazon is far from the only company that has compromised its purported values in order to ensure continued access to the Chinese market; that is now more or less standard operating procedure in U.S. companies now.

Look, it’s Jeff Bezos’ life and fortune and he’s free to make his own choices. But if Jeff Bezos isn’t willing to say “[blank] you” to censorship demands from the Chinese government… who will?

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.