CCP Influence on Big Tech

CCP Influence over Big Tech

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Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter together influence virtually every business in North America, Europe, and other parts of the world. It is no surprise, therefore, that the recent big tech censorship of Donald Trump and his supporters raised global concerns. For many, it demonstrated an unprecedented, unchecked power. At the same time, all of these companies either have billions already invested in the Chinese market or consider entering the Chinese market a top strategic priority. The end result? Tech companies with almost unlimited power in the West are deeply invested in appeasing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) bosses in Beijing, and so posses clear motivation to help Beijing shape civic and political life in the West.

After leaving China in 2010, Google has been exploring ways to re-enter the market. One attempt was to develop Dragonfly, a censored-search-engine prototype to be used in China. In 2018, Google said they suspended the project after protests by human rights organizations and Google’s engineers, all while officially expressing no intention to return to China, which if true, raised concerns as to why they had embarked on DragonFly to begin with. In 2017, Google launched an AI research center in Beijing. Additionally, the company has been engaging China by holding the annual AlphaGo match in Wuzhen, China, having an AI-powered “Guess the Sketch” game on WeChat, and promoting Chinese use of Google Brain Team’s software TensorFlow — all of which suggests Google remains very much focused on the China market.

For many years, Apple has manufactured a majority of its products in China using cheap labor, or even questionable labor. The company also accounts for one-quarter of cellphone sales in China. Tim Cook regularly visits China to meet Xi Jinping and local officials. The Chinese government has openly and repeatedly suggested Cook help broker a trade war solution and promote the U.S.-China business exchange.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was once very interested in entering the Chinese market. Once referred to as China’s “son-in-law,” Zuckerberg gave a speech at Tsinghua University in 2015 and met Xi Jinping in 2017. The relationship cooled down in 2019, with Zuckerberg openly criticizing TikTok and China’s violating privacy and free speech. It is unknown if the company will change its stance as entering China can potentially bring another 700 million users to Facebook — the largest potential growth market in the world.

In May 2020, Twitter recruited Chinese AI star Li Feifei to its board as an independent director. Li has close ties to Chinese authorities. She is considered the catalyst for Google to set up its AI Lab in China. She is also an adviser on AI to China’s prestigious Tsinghua University, and is tied to the Beijing-based Future Forum to develop 5G mobile technology.

Although Amazon closed its online marketplace business in China in 2019, it has aggressively recruited Chinese manufacturers and merchants to sell to consumers outside the country. Shockingly, Chinese sellers now constitute the majority of top sellers on Amazon, giving countless Chinese businesses access to the American market while squeezing out American businesses. Chinese people can still purchase Kindle e-readers and online content. Chinese enterprises also continue to use Amazon’s cloud for data storage and computing.

While all these companies remain headquartered in the United States, the Chinese market represents the single most important market for big tech companies for manufacturing, sales, and market growth. This would mean that appeasing the ruling CCP, or even doing their bidding in the U.S., would represent a clear and present danger to American business who rely so heavily on these platforms.

References

  • Financial Post: Amid trade war and spying claims, Apple CEO Tim Cook turns on the charm in China
  • MIT Review: How Google took on China—and lost
  • Radio Free Asia: Twitter's Hiring of China-Linked AI Expert Sparks Concern
  • Heritage Foundation: Tech Expert Exposes TikTok’s China Ties on ‘60 Minutes
  • Business Insider: Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing
  • Newsweek: The Slippery Slope Arrives: Big Tech Censorship Threatens Our Freedoms
  • Marketplace Pulse: Chinese Sellers Outnumber US Sellers on Amazon.com

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