An in-depth report from The Information on Tuesday shed new light on Apple’s dealings in China. It underscored the importance of CEO Tim Cook’s personal interventions with officials in the country and revealed a deal the company has signed in order to do business relatively uninhibited.
Apple’s Previously Undisclosed US$275 Billion China Deal
There is a lot to unpack, but the key points revealed by the internal documents and reporting are:
- In 2016, Mr. Cook signed a five-year agreement with the Chinese authorities. This has previously not been disclosed and is said to be worth over US$275 billion. He committed Apple to various investments in Chinese firms and manufacturing.
- Apple made these moves in order to halt a wave of regulatory action against the company. At the time, Chinese officials felt Apple was not contributing enough to the local economy.
- Mr. Cook lobbied officials in China to protect sales of various services and devices in the country. His diplomacy has proved successful, but other executives fear the company is too reliant on his relationship with officials.
Concessions Provoke Backlash
Crucially, it appears Apple made concessions as part of its negotiations with the authorities in China. Notably, the company committed to “strictly abide by Chinese laws and regulations.” This has regularly been the phrase it uses when responding to criticism over censorship and privacy issues in the country.
No surprise, campaigners on these issues have been left unimpressed by the revelations. Benjamin Ismail, project director at Apple Censorship, told The Mac Observer he was not surprised by the revelations.
To secure its presence in China, Apple show authorities it was willing to compromise on almost everything, on its values of privacy and freedom which it uses as a slogan almost every day.
The Mac Observer has contacted Apple to ask for a response but had not received one at the time of this writing.