Apple CEO Sucks Up to China in Interview With State-Owned Media

Tim Cook spoke to 'genocide-denying propaganda rag,' says congressman

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks to 'China Daily' / YouTube
June 29, 2022

Apple chief executive Tim Cook met this month with Chinese Communist Party members and propagandists who enable Beijing's mass surveillance, internet censorship, and other human rights abuses.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Cook praised China's "innovative and inspiring" app developers in an interview with China Daily, a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece that has spread disinformation about China's genocide against Uyghurs. Cook also held talks with an app developer who last year was appointed a secretary of the CCP and another whose photography app prohibits content that "subverts state power" or "undermines the national solidarity" of China.

The interactions highlight the kind of compromises Cook has made in order to do business in China. The tech titan has touted Apple's commitment to civil rights and privacy in the United States while complying with Beijing's draconian national security laws and ignoring its human rights record.

"This further underscores the hypocrisy of corporate America, which preaches social justice at home and turns a blind eye when it comes to its profits," Rep. Mike Waltz (R., Fla.) told the Washington Free Beacon. "It's absolutely shameful an American CEO would sit down with a communist, genocide-denying propaganda rag like China Daily."

China Daily pays millions of dollars a year to publish its propaganda in American news outlets.

Cook's interview with China Daily and meeting with Chinese app developers were part of his push to maintain access to China's deep reservoir of tech workers. He said Apple's app store has 5 million China-based apps, up from 4.4 million last year. He lauded Chinese developers as "at the cutting edge" and said he was "inspired" by their innovation. Cook's remarks were a propaganda coup for China Daily, which reported that Cook's remarks showed how "China will be of greater appeal to global tech giants in the future."

To remain in Beijing's good graces, Apple blocks apps from its store that might offend Chinese leaders and shares its Chinese customers' user data with government authorities. One China watcher said Cook has had "to kiss the ring" of Chinese government leaders because he "is desperate to hold onto any remaining scraps of the China market."

Cook met at the developers conference with app makers Liu Wei and Lin Jiashu as part of a roundtable discussion with Chinese developers, according to reports in Chinese media.

Liu, the founder of video game maker miHoYo, in September was appointed his company's secretary for the Chinese Communist Party, according to Chinese news reports. Liu said after his appointment that his company would use its games "as a promoter of Chinese culture" and would contribute to China's "new future." MiHoYo has censored characters and chat functions in its popular Genshin Impact video game to appease Chinese authorities. Cook congratulated miHoYo in 2020 after the game was named the Apple App Store's video game of the year.

Lin developed NOMO CAM, a popular photography app that requires users to "comply with the applicable laws and regulations of the People's Republic of China" or face criminal prosecution. The list of offenses in NOMO's terms of service include "damag[ing] the honor and interests of the nation." NOMO's privacy policy for its Apple app allows the company to share user data with the Chinese government on issues "directly related to national security and national defense security." The Chinese government has been accused of using its national security laws to crack down on pro-democracy demonstrators and shut down news organizations critical of the Communist Party.

Cook has heaped praise before on the Chinese tech industry, which is required to comply with Beijing's national security laws. Cook said at a 2017 conference Beijing uses to promote its internet regulation and censorship initiatives Apple and China were working toward "openness and shared benefits." Cook has avoided criticism of the Chinese government's human rights record, even as Apple pushes social justice causes in the United States. Apple last year canceled production in Georgia of a movie about slavery in protest of a GOP-backed voting law. Apple's critics noted the company has been accused of relying on Chinese slave labor to build its popular iPhones.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.