Apple removed many VPN‘s from its Chinese app store, and CEO Tim Cook joined China’s internet propaganda show last week. Author Shaun Rein of The War for China’s Wallet: Profiting from the New World Order explains in ChinaFile why Tim Cook got an audience in Wuzhen, and Google’s Sundar Pichai not.
The rewards China bestows on the these foreign Internet companies can be huge—China is Apple’s largest market outside of the United States. It generated 18 percent of Apple’s global revenue in the third quarter of 2017. Most of its products are assembled in China. Executives salivate at the size of the Chinese consumer market. It has become the largest market outside of the U.S. for companies ranging from Starbucks to Nike.
China has a long memory, too. While Tim Cook spoke to a packed auditorium in Wuzhen, his counterpart at Google, Sundar Pichai, spoke to an empty room. Reports were that authorities never made it clear what time Pichai’s speech was set, so no one knew when to attend. But Cook’s words in support of China’s Internet policies will be used in propaganda by the government to show how open they are to foreign players. And Cook will be rewarded with continued access to the lucrative Chinese wallet.
China has smartly used it wallet to get what it wants politically beyond its own borders. See how publisher Springer censored its own book catalog. China’s wallet is a power so large and lucrative that no single Internet company can withstand it. Going forward, it is only at the government-to-government level that these issues can be worked out. It is surprising that neither the Obama nor Trump administrations made a bigger push for greater access for Western technology firms in China—such a push should be couched not as a human rights issue but one based on money. America’s Internet companies are losing out on billions of dollars of profit under the current policies.
Are you looking for more internet experts at the China Speakers Bureau? Do check out this list.