Apple hired an expert on China to help them navigate the country’s market who reportedly warned company executives of the risks to doing business in an authoritarian country seeking power over the west.
Doug Guthrie spoke to the New York Times about his time working for Apple for a report published Thursday. He said he sounded the alarm about China’s increasing authoritarian turn under President Xi Jinping and their desire to gain influence over American companies.
‘In 2004, Apple decided to expand in China with a factory making the iPod… Less than a year later, the executives returned to China. The mountain was gone and the factory was operating… The Chinese government had moved the mountain for Apple.’ https://t.co/n3S0pdgHqe
— Michael B. Kelley (@MichaelBKelley) June 18, 2021
When Apple decided to expand its manufacturing base to China in 2004, its manufacturing partner reportedly pointed to a small mountain and told two Apple executives present that the factory would be built there. One year later, the mountain was gone and the factory was fully operational, the Times reported.
As Apple’s influence in China began to grow, Guthrie, a longtime scholar on China, was reportedly hired by the company in 2014 to advise them on navigating the country’s market. He told the Times he warned that Apple’s increasing reliance on China for manufacturing was playing into Xi’s goal of wielding influence over American companies.
“I was going around to business leaders, and I’m like: ‘Do you guys understand who Xi Jinping is? Are you listening to what’s going on here? That was my big calling card,” said Guthrie, who left Apple in 2019.
“We were wrong,” Guthrie added. “The wild card was Xi Jinping.”
Apple has also reportedly had to grapple with the draconian demands and laws imposed by the Chinese Communist Party that put its Chinese customers’ data at risk and helped aid the Chinese government’s censorship operation, which was also reported by the Times last month. (RELATED: REPORT: Apple Working With Chinese Government To Censor And Surveil Its Citizens)
“We have never compromised the security of our users or their data in China or anywhere we operate,” an Apple spokesman told NYT, adding that Guthrie was a “midlevel employee and hadn’t set policy at Apple.”
In addition to Apple, corporations like Nike and Coca-Cola have also come under fire for fighting the U.S government’s efforts to stop the use of forced labor in China.
Apple has also been outspoken about several political issues in America, such as the Georgia voting law, despite their corporation with the Chinese government.