In response to complaints from the Chinese government, Amazon has shut down customer reviews of “The Governance of China,” a collection of speeches and writings from President Xi Jinping, according to a report from Reuters.
Insiders at Amazon told the news service that the company received the official demand in 2019 after negative reviews of the book were posted on Amazon’s Chinese site. “I think the issue was anything under five stars,” one person said.
Reuters also obtained a 2018 internal document that outlined several obstacles that Amazon faced to expand its operations in China. “Ideological control and propaganda is the core of the toolkit for the communist party to achieve and maintain its success,” the document reads. “We are not making judgement [sp] on whether it is right or wrong.”
Another document from Amazon’s lobbying head and former Obama White House Press Sec. Jay Carney also discussed the importance of a selling portal called China Books to the company’s business prospects in the country. Among those noted are books that extoll the government’s party lines like “Incredible Xinjiang,” a book that praises the quality of life in a province where over 1 million Uyghur Muslims have been placed in internment camps.
In a statement to Reuters, Amazon said it “complies with all applicable laws and regulations, wherever we operate, and China is no exception.” It added that “as a bookseller, we believe that providing access to the written word and diverse perspectives is important. That includes books that some may find objectionable.”
Reuters’ report comes as Western companies face growing scrutiny over their willingness to overlook human rights violations committed by the Chinese government to advance its business interest. Earlier this month, CNN anchor Jake Tapper criticized companies like Disney for its practices in China, including filming the recent remake of “Mulan” in Xinjiang and pulling an episode of “The Simpsons” set in Beijing from Disney+ in Hong Kong.
“The millionaires and billionaires of Hollywood and the NBA and the IOC and Wall Street are all so eager for Chinese cash, they’re pretending none of this is happening,” Tapper said. “There is no amount of money that can buy enough soap to wash that blood off their hands.”