For a “forward-facing” company, the tech giant has been embracing some pretty backward principles in its obedience to the Chinese government.
Not only has Apple deleted apps such as the Hong Kong police tracker app at the demand of China, but apparently when Apple was developing shows for its AppleTV+ lineup in 2018, show creators were given specific instructions not to anger China when creating their program.
According to BuzzFeed News, Apple wanted to stay in China’s good graces above all:
In early 2018 as development on Apple’s slate of exclusive Apple TV+ programming was underway, the company’s leadership gave guidance to the creators of some of those shows to avoid portraying China in a poor light, BuzzFeed News has learned. Sources in position to know said the instruction was communicated by Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of internet software and services, and Morgan Wandell, its head of international content development. It was part of Apple’s ongoing efforts to remain in China’s good graces after a 2016 incident in which Beijing shut down Apple’s iBooks Store and iTunes Movies six months after they debuted in the country.
BuzzFeed reports that this is hardly uncommon either, noting from one app creator that to have your app removed from Apple’s app store all that has to happen is for Apple to get one phone call from China about it:
“We just get a phone call from Apple and they say ‘We just got a call from the Chinese government’ and five minutes later our app is off the App Store,” one US technology executive told BuzzFeed News. “It’s not a line of communication that would be open to any discussion.”
“They have so much market power in general and they wield that pretty indiscriminately,” the US technology executive said of Apple.
The bottom line here isn’t just that China is wielding power indiscriminately, it’s wielding power indiscriminately within some of our major corporations which we rely on every day. Corporations that primarily deal with our communication, entertainment, and digital tools.
This is a pretty dangerous combination, given that in our technologically advanced age, we deal heavily with these things. If China can directly dictate what our communications companies say and do, then they are dictating us. Whether we like it or not, we also live under Chinese rule.
News is censored, and our entertainment, whether it deals with China or not, has a pro-Chinese bent. What’s more, what happens when China gets it into its head that it can begin reworking scripts to not just stay neutral or harmless to China but to actually create content that promotes it.
Apple has already demonstrated that it’s willing to ask “how high” when China orders it to jump. Who says that it won’t begin demanding programming be more complementary to China.