Over the past couple of years, a succession of American tech executives have decamped to Beijing to pander to the dictatorial leadership there.
Mark Zuckerberg, in particular, has shown a penchant for flattering the ruling caste in China; he has repeatedly visited the country that his company, Facebook, remains banned in.
The motives of these executives is plain: China has the world’s largest Internet user base, yet many major American websites—YouTube, Twitter, Facebook—are blocked by its so-called Great Firewall.
Which means that China represents a huge untapped market.
The rub is that, many tech companies don’t admit the plain fact that they’re out to make a profit. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Instead, they cast their businesses in strictly moral terms.
Zuckerberg sings the praises of a repressive Chinese regime, for example.
Eric Schmidt, of the supposedly non-evil Google, travels to North Korea against the State Department’s wishes. His company also readily censors search engine results in repressive countries.
This week it was Tim Cook’s turn to kowtow. The Apple honcho was in China at a conference, that, in the words of Bloomberg, was “designed to globally promote the country’s vision of a more censored and controlled internet.”
Cook’s appearance at this confab was a symbolic victory for Chinese repression. It also came on the heels of Apple’s decision last month to remove apps that provide for uncensored communications from its Chinese store. Basically, what happened was that Beijing told Cook to remove Skype—and he quickly complied.
The Great Firewall, in other words, is working.