Amazon silenced criticism of Xi to do business in China: Report

Tech giant scrubbed poor reviews of Xi Jinping’s book following edict from Beijing, news report says.

Amazon removed critical reviews of Chinese President Xi Jinping's book at the request of Beijing [File: Gonzalo Fuentes] Inc.’s efforts to curry favor with the Chinese government included quieting criticism of President Xi Jinping’s book on its Chinese outlet, according to a Reuters report.

The entry for Xi’s “The Governance of China” had its ratings, comments and reviews scrubbed and disabled roughly two years ago in response to an edict from Beijing, the report said. Triggering the request were reviews rating the work at less than the maximum five stars, according to one of the unidentified people familiar with the incident.

The move was part of a broader campaign to ensure that Amazon could carry on with business in the world’s most populous country, where its Kindle and cloud computing operations had room to grow. By 2018, the company was receiving an “increasing number of requests from (Chinese) watchdogs to take down certain content, mostly politically sensitive ones,“ according to an internal briefing document cited by Reuters.

Challenging environment

An Amazon spokesperson told Bloomberg News that it “complies with all applicable laws and regulations, wherever we operate, and China is no exception.”

The experience recounted in the report mirrors that of Apple Inc., which has grown increasingly compliant with Beijing in recent years. Apple complied with 97% of requests from the Chinese government for user device information in 2019, up significantly from 65% in 2014.

Reviews for Xi’s book of speeches and writings are blocked only on Amazon’s Chinese website. One entry has received 74% five-star reviews.

Read more about Apple’s delicate balancing act in China

Other U.S. firms, such as Yahoo! and Microsoft Corp.’s LinkedIn, have, by contrast, exited the Chinese market this year, citing an increasingly challenging business and legal environment in the country.

Source: Bloomberg