The China syndrome

At FOX Business Bradford Betz takes up the concern expressed by Jeff Bezos about Elon Musk’s buyout of Twitter. Given Tesla’s reliance on China’s for car sales and lithium batteries, Bezos worries that China may influence (i.e, “gain a bit of leverage”) on Twitter. Betz gives us this tu quoque:

Bezos’ commentary on Tesla’s relationship with China is peculiar given a Reuters investigation in December [accessible online here] that found Amazon had capitulated to demands from China to continue doing business and grow the company there.

And, in 2019, the Washington Post – which Bezos bought in 2013 – included an eight-page “advertising supplement” touting the achievements and talking points of the Chinese government in a section that was off-limits to the paper’s editors.

In addition, some 38% of Amazon’s top-selling brands are based in China, a report from the firm Daxue Consulting found late last year.

Looking up the linked Reuters story, I think it is worse than one would infer from Betz’s comments. This is gross, for example: Inc was marketing a collection of President Xi Jinping’s speeches and writings on its Chinese website about two years ago, when Beijing delivered an edict, according to two people familiar with the incident. The American e-commerce giant must stop allowing any customer ratings and reviews in China.

A negative review of Xi’s book prompted the demand, one of the people said. “I think the issue was anything under five stars,” the highest rating in Amazon’s five-point system, said the other person.

Ratings and reviews are a crucial part of Amazon’s e-commerce business, a major way of engaging shoppers. But Amazon complied, the two people said. Currently, on its Chinese site, the government-published book has no customer reviews or any ratings. And the comments section is disabled.

Amazon’s compliance with the Chinese government edict, which has not been reported before, is part of a deeper, decade-long effort by the company to win favor in Beijing to protect and grow its business in one of the world’s largest marketplaces.

Do tell us about Chinese leverage, Mr. Bezos. You seem to have first-hand experience that would shed some light on it. Tu quoque is a form of logical fallacy, but the point in this case is a good one. However, it amplifies Bezos’s concern rather than discredits it.

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