December 7, 2023

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Thank Business Its Friday

Amazon Collaborated With China’s Propaganda Arm to Boost Sales

  • Amazon worked with the Chinese government to restrict reviews on texts by the Communist Party leader. 
  • Reuters revealed this is part of the US e-commerce giant’s mission to expand its reach in China. 
  • They created the portal China Books, a partnership with the Chinese government to sell approved literature. 

Amazon agreed to cooperate with Chinese propaganda after the government issued them an “edict,” Reuters found an investigation

In 2019, Amazon was selling a collection of texts by President Xi Jinping — including “Xi Jinping: The Governance of China” — when Beijing demanded the US e-commerce giant turn off their rating and comments feature after a negative review surfaced. 

These elements are used on the vast majority of Amazon’s products, but they complied with the Chinese government’s demands and removed them from their Chinese site. 

Now, on, the government-published book has 0 customer reviews, and one cannot post a comment. 

Reuters news agency said it had spoken with more than two dozen people who have been involved in Amazon’s China operation. The special report reveals “how the company has survived and thrived in China by helping to further the ruling Communist Party’s global economic and political agenda.”

In their investigation, Reuters revealed that Amazon’s compliance with the Chinese government instruction was a part of a “decade-long effort” by Amazon to win support from Xi’s regime and grow their presence in one of the world’s biggest markets. 

Amazon had historically struggled to sell some products in China, an internal 2018 briefing document revealed, Reuters reports. 

“Ideological control and propaganda is the core of the toolkit for the communist party to achieve and maintain its success,” the briefing document said, according to Reuters. “We are not making judgement on whether it is right or wrong,” it added.

In response to this, Amazon launched the ‘China Books’ project. Outlined in the 2018 briefing document, the project between the Chinese Government and Amazon created a portal to specifically sell books by the government. 

China Books eventually offered more than 90,000 publications for sale but did not generate significant revenue, said the report.

Xi Jinping Chinese Communist Party 100th anniversary

Chinese President and Chairman of the Communist Party Xi Jinping appears on a large screen as performers dance during a mass gala marking the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party on June 28, 2021 at the Olympic Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing, China.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

In the ‘Chinese Governance’ section of the site, the series of books “Xi Jinping: The Governance of China,” compilations of speeches by the Chinese President, are the only titles available. 

Many books on the site are apolitical and focus on geography or cooking, for example. However, many take a political stance: all in support of China’s Communist Party. 

They include “Incredible Xinjiang: Stories of Passion and Heritage,” describing life in Xinjiang, where the UN has stated one million Uyghur Muslims have been forced into totalitarian re-education camps. 

However, the book claims ethnicity is “not a problem” in the province, regurgitating the message of the Chinese government, which denies any mistreatment or abuse of ethnic minorities. 

In responding to questions from 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.”

The state-owned firm that partners with Amazon on China books, China International Book Trading Corp, or CIBTC, said  the venture is a “commercial relationship between two enterprises.” China’s National Press and Publication Administration, the state propaganda arm with which Amazon has had a partnership, had no comment when Reuters approached it.