In China, you don’t talk about human rights or freedom. Those things don’t exist, and are not allowed to exist on Chinese soil. From its inception the Chinese Communist Party has applied various malicious methods to keep the Chinese people under control. Today, in the wake of the Internet of Things, the CCP is famous for its digital authoritarianism. A 2020 in-depth report from the Lowy Institute pointed out that the regime built a digital authoritarian technology ecosystem to track its citizens and collect a massive amount of their data. This helps the regime to shape its control propaganda and strengthen its suppression of its own citizens’ freedom. But the regime isn’t alone on this evil path, as recently it has recruited a new powerful ally from the West.

On November 29, Tucker Carlson roasted a billion-dollar company on his evening session on the Fox News Channel. He mentioned the recent nationwide protests in China, where hundreds of thousands of Chinese took to the streets to stage their discontent over the COVID restrictions. Strangely enough, Apple shut down the AirDrop feature not long after the demonstration, when the Chinese people started complaining about the Chinese regime on AirDrop. And so far, this is happening only in China. So why AirDrop?

Carlson isn’t the only one who noticed Apple’s suspicious action. Indeed, on November 30, Florida Gov. Ron Desantis accused the smartphone company of being “a vassal to the Chinese Communist Party.” The governor was suspicious about the unusual timing of the iOS 16.1.1 update on November 9. This update, again, applies to China-based users only. It limits the time a user can receive messages from others to 10 minutes. In the past, there was no such limitation. Now, under such a restriction, protesters are unlikely to get in contact and coordinate with others.

How come Apple was motivated to do such a thing? Let’s consider the latest iPhone sales statistics in China. Apple Insider reported on December 1 that one in four smartphones sold in China during October 2022 was an iPhone, making it the #1 OEM in the nation for the second consecutive month. While the sales for other key OEMs dropped in October, Apple grew 21% month-on-month. The iPhone 14 Pro Max is the country’s best-selling device. These figures also marked Apple’s highest-ever monthly market share in China.

The statistics could explain something. Is that a coincidence? Very unlikely. Carlson argued that although Apple is an American company, its value is somehow in line with the Chinese communists. He pointed to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook’s interview with Fortune executive editor Adam Lashinsky back in 2017.

So China’s dream-like poverty chart impresses the CEO. [image] The point is, China has never been clear about how those figures were brought to the table. No one knows how Chinese officials calculated those numbers, or which threshold they used to measure poverty. But we do know that China defines poverty as less than $1.69 a day—which is lower than the World Bank’s threshold for extreme poverty, and far from the $5.50 benchmark that economists recommend for upper-middle-income countries. According to the Wall Street Journal, some economists call it “a double standard that conflicts with evidence that China is a middle-income country rather than a poor one.”

Even the Chinese people themselves are doubtful about the state’s figures. In 2021, the Chinese regime claimed that it had lifted 800 million Chinese people out of poverty. The Washington Post cited a few comments from Chinese social media Weibo, one of which stated, “China has eliminated absolute poverty. That’s right. Everyone is just relatively poor.” Another reads, “Perhaps the motherland forgot to count me.”

Tucker Carlson gave out another piece of evidence to prove that Apple is upholding the CCP’s narrative about human rights abuse. When asked by Andrew Ross Sorkin from The New York Times about his silence over China’s human rights issues, Tim Cook replied,

“Everybody has their own laws and customs,” that’s what Tim Cook said. Now, let’s take former Party leader Jiang Zemin’s viewpoint on human rights as a reference. Jiang said, “Human rights is a problem within the sovereignty of a country. All countries have different views on human rights issues and should engage in dialogue instead of confrontation.” The former leader once told former U.S. President Bill Clinton, “On issues such as human rights, it can only be discussed without interfering in other countries’ internal affairs.” Although Cook and Jiang are a few generations apart, their opinions on human rights and state laws are not much different.

The question is, why can a company from the United States, a nation whose human rights and freedom are written into its Constitution, turn to favor Chinese tyranny? And Apple isn’t the first American company to become a helping hand to the communist regime. In 2006, four major U.S. internet companies—Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and Cisco—were criticized for developing the internet under the CCP’s control. At the time, the U.S. government was dealing with corruption in China. In the hearing with four representatives of these companies in 2006, congressman Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor of the Nazi genocide, said, 

It’s time to take a look at modern history, around the early 1990s when Jiang offered market access to the West. Prior to this period, despite the fact that China had been opened under Deng Xiaoping, the West was still reluctant to invest in the country.  The West was still concerned over China’s human rights issue, especially after the Tiananmen Square massacre. At the time, the U.S., together with many Western nations, jointly imposed various sanctions on China—an action in response to China’s human rights abuse, the crime against innocent students.

However, in 1990, Jiang came up with the “Purchase order diplomacy.” According to the book “The Real Jiang Zemin,” China made a sweeping $9 billion purchase on Boeing airplanes. From 1990 to 1995, each year, China sent to the U.S. a purchase delegation to buy products and build bilateral relations. China spent more than $1 billion each year in 1991 and 1992 to purchase products from Europe. It only took 2 years for western countries to lift the sanctions from China. 

It must be said that it was not because Jiang was clever whatsoever. He’s just good at exploiting the foremost weakness in businessmen’s human nature: greed. From 1990 to 2010, Jiang continued to apply “Purchase order diplomacy” as a bargaining chip to achieve his political intentions on the world stage. When the U.S. stood in the way of China becoming a WTO member, the regime brought $4 billion in purchase orders to the U.S. for three consecutive years, from 1997 to 1999. This was meant to ease the tension between the two countries on trade issues.

The purchasing tactic peaked again in 2004, when anti-China sentiment rose among the Americans due to the growing surplus trade between the two nations. On the one hand, China still needed foreign investment to help its economy thrive. On the other hand, it wanted to create a large trade surplus, relying mostly on the “sweatshop” labor policy. American businesses were temporarily satisfied with the profits, while the American consumer could enjoy cheaper goods.  

All of that was just the prelude. After managing to ease tensions with Western countries, gaining the upper hand on the world trade table, Jiang turned China into an enormous market, luring Western corporations with its 1.3 billion population. At home, Jiang had already established a corrupt regime from top to bottom.  So when the West was tempted by trade offers, they unknowingly jumped into a big dye vat. Corporate ethics and social responsibility took a backseat to the prospect of making a lot of money.

Western businessmen picked up on the corruption in China, and they quickly adapted to it. They knew that to be sure footed in China, political protection is a must. Most Westerners became familiar with the term “guanxi”—meaning the business relationship between corporations and Chinese officials. At best, guanxi can bring about a policy in favor of foreign investors.

Since Jiang’s era, Chinese officials have started sending their children abroad to study. In exchange for investment projects in Chinese companies, many Western firms and banks recruit those “princelings.” Princelings are the children of CCP high ranking officials. For example, Feng Shaodong (aka Wilson Feng), son-in-law of the chair of National People’s Congress Wu Bangguo, once led Merrill Lynch’s China operations. Zeng Zhijie (aka Jeffrey Zeng), son of former vice premier Zeng Peiyan, once worked in Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation and CITIC Pacific in Hong Kong.

The corruption practice among Western companies in China saw a sharp rise in 2000. In 2003, there were around 1,500 corruption cases that involved foreign companies. The number was an increase of 20% over the previous year. Transnational corruption became a phenomenon. One of the most scandalous bribery cases has to be Siemens–the most respected manufacturing conglomerate in Germany. German prosecutors estimated at least $207.97 million was involved in the case, while the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission found over 4,000 Siemens’ bribery cases that amounted to approximately $1.4 billion. These cases took place between 2001 and 2007 and most could be traced back to projects in China. 

Under the pressure of the U.S. and German governments, Siemens had to give away the names of officials that had taken the bribes. The list contained many officials from various governments, including names of family members of two senior Politburo officials. Nine Chinese companies were mentioned. There were many bribery cases like that in China, and they came in various forms, even sex bribes. 

And just like that, the free world’s values were contaminated. The Communist Party was able to lure foreign companies with lucrative business deals, while Westerners were ready, willing, and able to give up their moral principles. This allows China to keep business partners’ mouths shut about its terrible human rights records.

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