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Apple CEO Tim Cook 'secretly' signed $275B deal with China in 2016 (macrumors.com)
1209 points by baybal2 on Dec 8, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 707 comments

Daring Fireball [1] has another passage from the article which is illuminating with regards to any promises Apple makes about how it will resist governmental pressure to compromise its products, vis-à-vis Apple's CSAM scanning tool.

"Sometime in 2014 or early 2015, China’s State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping told members of the Apple Maps team to make the Diaoyu Islands, the objects of a long-running territorial dispute between China and Japan, appear large even when users zoomed out from them. Chinese regulators also threatened to withhold approval of the first Apple Watch, scheduled for release in 2015, if Apple didn’t comply with the unusual request, according to internal documents.

Some members of the team back at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., initially balked at the demand. But the Maps app had become a priority for Apple, so eventually the company complied. The Diaoyu Islands, when viewed in Apple Maps in mainland China, continue to appear on a larger scale than surrounding territories."

Apple has, and will, fold to government pressure faster than a lawn chair.

1. https://daringfireball.net/linked/2021/12/08/the-information...

Anyone who has worked in mapping/GIS at a company that sells in China has seen this in action. The "display these islands larger" requests, the obfuscated coordinate system for geo-aligning maps, and other map content regulatory issues[1] all need to be dealt with if you want your map product available in the country. Not excusing it, but every company with maps there is required to do this, not just Apple.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restrictions_on_geographic_dat...

I compared the same area in apple vs google maps, the islands don't even show up in google unless you zoom way in. You sure about this?

People outside of China are served a different set of maps. Each country is served maps that conform to their territorial claims.

E.g. If you view the map of India while in India, it'll appear different than if you viewed it in China.

One thing about claims (say display Crimea as part of Russia within Russia and as Ukraine elsewhere), but distorting SIZES of the places on maps according to someone's political preference is well... plain out ridiculous, laughable. It displays how messed up China is more than anything else. It's seriously hard to expect the place that does things like that, as a next superpower. You can't build a superpower on silly, 4-year-old level lies like that one.

"In the end, the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable—what then?" — George Orwell, 1984

All that thread was screaming for that quote. Thank you forever for posting it!

> You can't build a superpower on silly, 4-year-old level lies like that one.

You absolutely can and must. That is, in fact, one of the prerogatives of a superpower.

What is even the purpose of showing these tiny islands in a larger size? It's not like they are the backbone of China's economy or that they prove that the party still has the mandate of heaven.

To oversize the problem related to those islands. And make the people agree upon a common ennemy.

[USA did a similar oversizing trick with WMD and the belief that Irak was the 4th biggest army in the world]

[calm down, USA patriots, all the countries do use the same tricks.]

Did Iraq NOT have the 4th biggest army in the world?

It's not the size, it's how you use it.

Tell that to the iphone mini...

In the 80s yes.

You should see the Gerrymandering maps in the US. It’s map distortion for political power, not just political posture.

There used to be an awesome online game where your challenge was to gerrymander constituencies. I had great fun and it was amazingly education. God knows what it was made in, possibly a Java Applet. I wonder if anything exists with modern tech.

Edit: It was this - http://www.redistrictinggame.org/game.php

It looks like someone has made one here though: http://gametheorytest.com/gerry/game/

Gerrymandering is bad.

But those maps do describe reality.

Can you elaborate on this? I am curious to know more about it.

Some US voting districts are very odd shapes, specifically to include/exclude factors which increase the chances of a particular political party winning.

Not to completely defend gerrymandering but districts are also drawn "oddly" to help ensure minority representation within a system with absurd constraints. If there were more representatives districts would be more granular and localized but because representatives are capped at 435 you have this bizarre situation of needing to give opportunities for equal representation across populations that are spread across a city/county/state.

If someone appointed me as the czar of legislative voting, my way to resolve this and reduce the incentives to gerrymander while improving minority representation would be to replace single district voting with a vote-point system.

If one candidate in a district gets 100,000 votes and another 85,000 votes, both would go to congress and each would get that many vote-points. Rather than number of representative votes, voting outcomes would be determined by who has more vote-points. That way if you have three similarly sized districts, District X and District Y where 40% want party A and 60% want party B, and then district Z where you have 90% want party A and only 10% want party B, you'd still end up with .4/3+.4/3+.9/3 (56%) votes for party A rather than 67% for party B, regardless of how you redistrict. Plus you'd have asymmetric interests where opposing parties would represent the same districts so they would be incentivized to work together, and also some representation for minority regional parties who may align with one party on some issues and another on others.

To limit budgets, I guess there would have to be a maximum number of candidates per district, maybe filtering out anyone who does not have at least 10% of the vote (or some other number determined by some reasonable formula), an option for candidates who don't meet the threshold to reallocate their vote-points to someone who did (or a ranked choice voting system that keeps going until everyone remaining has the minimum vote threshold), and maybe no matter what you'd at least send two candidates unless literally only one candidate had votes.

This would also have a side effect of incentivizing more people to vote and allow people to vote with a bit less strategy and more earnestness.

So... proportional representation? I think without PR you don't really have a full democracy. Things might be "democratic" in spirit, but it's never a fair and transparent democracy without PR.

I am not disagreeing at all, but most places have stupid regulations for petty nationalistic reasons. Saying that you can’t have a superpower with these is laughable, considering the history of the USSR and the US specifically. Though, again, this is very common.

If I remember correctly, this used to happen on historical maps too, the UK and Europe were often made larger than they actually are.

It feels silly but there are manipulative reasons to do this.

> If I remember correctly, this used to happen on historical maps too, the UK and Europe were often made larger than they actually are.

A consequence of the projection chosen, applied uniformly (e.g. Mercator, which also makes Greenland and Alaska ludicrously large)? Or do you mean maps that enlarged Europe specifically? Mercator is dumb (for anything other than navigation), but there is a significant difference here. China is doing the latter.

Many maps -especially US maps- enlarged USSR for decades. China says "X must be visible at zoom level Y instead of at Y-5". Not at all comparable.

> Many maps -especially US maps- enlarged USSR for decades.

Can you provide information or citations for this?

> China says "X must be visible at zoom level Y instead of at Y-5".

That's not the claim made in the thread above: "Sometime in 2014 or early 2015, China’s State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping told members of the Apple Maps team to make the Diaoyu Islands, the objects of a long-running territorial dispute between China and Japan, appear large even when users zoomed out from them." Can you provide any citation to the contrary?

I say you remember incorrectly. Some map projections (see <https://explainxkcd.com/977> for an overview) make objects appear proportionally larger when we move from the equator to the poles, Greenland and Antarctica are greatly exaggerated. But this is motivated by stereometric reasons – everything on the same latitude is equally distorted – and not because the King wanted a huge Mappy McMapface.

> But this is motivated by stereometric reasons – everything on the same latitude is equally distorted

Expanding on this; Mercator is useful for navigation because it's conformal, i.e. it preserves angles. When you're plotting the course of a ship, this is very convenient.

And historically, ship navigation was the dominant reason to make maps in the first place.

Only when maps were used for other purposes was there any reason to develop other projections.

It’s not “4-year-old level” if you have the power to back it up. Anyone who hasn’t heard of the trick will be deceived by it, which I suspect will be the majority of people.

AFAICT it is not "distorting SIZES". It is at which zoom level an area or island becomes visible.

> It displays how messed up China is more than anything else.

Eh, the USSR was made bigger on maps for decades because of US "4-year-old level lies". This is not even in the same ballpark.

It's a mistake to treat "China" as one coherent entity with a single unified purpose, which chooses to prioritize the mapping issue front-of-mind.

China has over a billion people. That one middle manager in the maps department is personally offended by territory appearing smaller, has zero relation to the rest of the country and shouldn't affect your opinion.

Many bureaucrats in the USA draw stupid lines in sand that nobody cares about, yet the USA is a strong superpower nonetheless.

This is not some middle manager's sensibility. This is a deliberate inner propaganda policy. When chinese people ask: "What we are fighting for there?", they can open the map and see some big island and not the shit of a fly visible only under a microscope.

As a Chinese I don't need to open maps or search how large the island is, I learn that it is a tiny one from (printed) newspapers years ago.

OTOH I don't have much confidence in the middle manager theory, either.

Because China is a dictatorship, it is OK to be seen as a single coherent entity, in my opinion.

Just as in any large political system, China cannot be entirely controlled centrally. There are three or four levels of regional and local control below the centre. It would be impossible for Beijing to administer all of that detail.

In foreign affairs, Beijing is sovereign - including anything related to the Senkaku / Diaoyu islands which are presently owned by Japan. So in this respect you are right.

For local matters, there is considerable flexibility and internal conflict. Currently, Beijing encourages citizens to find fault and report administrative issues at local levels, but will brook no dissent of its own management. In domestic administration China is less coherent than your claim.

All of the above could be equally true in a non-authoritarian form of government. I would argue that China's authoritarian politics are largely orthogonal to its degree of federation.

>For local matters, there is considerable flexibility and internal conflict. Currently, Beijing encourages citizens to find fault and report administrative issues at local levels, but will brook no dissent of its own management. In domestic administration China is less coherent than your claim.

Your social credit score will go down if you do.

China has over a billion people: true, but everything is under the control of CCP. So for anyone outside China, it is one coherent entity which is the CCP.

In a single party system, one entity as large as CCP can never be "coherent": you'll always have people pulling in different directions.

Agree ... there are always factions etc and all these factions may manifest power within china, but external to China, CCP at projects a coherent facade unlike other democracies.

China is not a democracy

Even political scientists disagree what makes a "democracy" today.

I am pretty sure China considers itself a "democracy" in the original meaning of the word: "rule of the people" (thus the focus on "People" in "People's Republic of China" and in many other official names). Basically, anyone can rise to power by going through the ranks of the communist party, and people are elected and voted for.

I wouldn't consider it a democracy even in that basic sense because of the disregard for basic human rights and freedoms, and it surely is not one in the modern political sense of multi-party systems.

Similarly, one could argue that the de-facto two-party system in the USA is not very democratic either, as it's not unlike a single-party system in China: you go through the ranks of the *party* to progress. It's the other things that make USA more of a democracy (freedom of speech and protections against unsubstantiated persecution, for example, and sure, ability to start a party too — even if it's inconsequential).

If any country can be treated as a coherent entity, it's China.

Why do we see some of these behaviors within China maps, outside China?

> .. the obfuscated coordinate system for geo-aligning maps ..


Roads are not aligned to the satellite imagery for example.

The same exists elsewhere, in South Korea that I know of. Bridges and dams disappear or move on maps, Google Maps doesn't have high res sat pictures, etc. Just to say, it's not great IMO but not only totalitarian states have a need for such obfuscation; healthy democracies too.

> Bridges and dams disappear or move on maps, Google Maps doesn't have high res sat pictures, etc.

Not defending what I see as childish China the slightest, but one should be aware that even the best democracies don't necessarily publish entirely correct maps, and it is on purpose ;-)

what is the need that justifies this exactly?

missiles and artillery

can't remote-boom-boom if you can't know where they are

Perfect for those apple-maps guided bombs.

In a recent Donbass conflict, there were reports of Ukrainian military and militia using specially tailored Android apps with OSM data as base layers.

If you can get perfect coordinates from Apple Maps and your missiles have GPS, you're good to boom. It's not as though the missiles have an iPhone inside them.

But if your missiles have GPS surely you have satellites to get the coordinates yourself?

I don't think that follows. GPS access is universal; accurate mapping data is not. These rules are an attempt to ensure that precise coordinates for key targets are not available to anyone with a satnav system or smartphone.

North Korea won't think to look at other maps?

Of course not! They choose their targets using Google Maps: nobody was ever fired for using Google Maps! :D

> nobody was ever fired for

hm that means 2 things there...

To add, India has a similar law for maps. Any company serving maps in India has to show, for example, all of Kashmir - including the ones we aren't in control of - as belonging to India. I've made a small hobby out of noting websites which should be illegal in India because of that. A recent memorable incident (not a website, and not found by me) was when John Oliver's Last Week Tonight did a show on Asian-Americans and the Indian streaming service that hosted LWT had to crop the map out. It's pretty funny.

Ownership disputes exist in many places across the world. But making an island appear larger than it is, is a unique demand that reminds me of Indiana trying to pass a law that declared the value of pi to be equal to 3.

> Indiana trying to pass a law that declared the value of pi to be equal to 3.

Interesting. Was that really true? Why did they need to change the value?

> I've made a small hobby out of noting websites which should be illegal in India because of that.

Do you mean you are reporting these sites?

Of course not. I'm not a snitch.

Would be fascinating to see all of these discrepancies highlighted.

it's a practice reaching as far back as cartography itself

The old projections systems were even made to blow up what you cared about (your country) and be very scale-imprecised on the outskirt.

That might be less propaganda, and more about wanting a large, precise map of the area that interests you.

Projections were chosen for a variety of reasons. For example the Mercator projection distorts the size of things far from the equator, but it does preserve local bearing and shape.

Just do a Google search for the kinds of maps the some American schools use, you'll be amazed. Once, my wife had to hear from a university geography professor in America that Texas was larger than Brazil. When contested the professor said he was pretty sure.

I'm not supporting China territorial claims, but I don't expect anything different from their government. I did however expected better from the U.S.

One professor making a mistake implies the US government is manipulating maps? How did you come to that conclusion?

Could anyone share screenshots or images of juxtaposed examples of such map scenarios?

We aren’t even looking at the same planet that we’re living on.

Google Maps is blocked in China, I think.

So, as much as people like to throw shade at Google, we can say that they haven't caved on this. That's a plus for them.

Google withdrew from the Chinese market for multiple reasons, but one influential one was the state sponsored penetration of Google ops in China.

To be clear, Google still offers multiple products (including their primary one, Ads) in the Chinese market and has several offices there.

That was 10 years ago, before they negotiated for access.

Do you have information on what that negotiation or access is?

Full disclosure I work at Google.

I think you're assuming they are not available because they pushed back on the one specific thing about island size and not something else all together. It's not really proven that they are not available because they have that much integrity.

It’s not that they didn’t cave, Google products are unavailable due to sanctions.

Google Search for example was heavily modified for the Chinese market.

Google did actually make a stand here a decade back, and have been blocked ever since. The last straw for them at the time, however, wasn't political pressure to make some islands look bigger or censor some websites, but espionage.

Aren't they unavailable because they specifically didn't cave though?

No. They’re unavailable because they refused to go back into the market after China got caught using espionage. Were it not for that, it’s very possible Google would have caved; we don’t know how that would have fallen. It’s convenient they didn’t have to answer that, but not because they didn’t cave.

It’s not true though. They were under tremendous pressure to adapt their product and change it for the ccp (with censorship for example). They were constantly resisting by introducing workarounds. Until the espionnage thing when they said "fuck it, we’re done". I remember very well: I was living in China at the time.

Absence of evidence doesn't seem as definitive as you're making it here, but it's worth noting that we have two counterfactuals we can use as a prior: Bing still works in China and Yahoo only pulled out last summer, in spite of public espionage and hacking incidents.

> Bing still works in China

If by ‘works’ you mean it allows searches that China finds acceptable.

> Google Search for example was heavily modified for the Chinese market.

Do you mean something other than Project Dragonfly, which was terminated?

Google had been running search in China up till 2010, and it has been censoring its results according to Chinese government wishes. Then, Google found out that China has been hacking them, got angry and left.

Leaky censoring, you could still find the banned stuff. Sergey Brin was very anti-authoritarian given his background, and Google's decision to leave China was far more principled than "we have no choice". They were given a choice to comply with onerous government restrictions and decided to say no.

(And yes, the "old" Google of the Brin area is gone. I also don't think Steve Jobs would kowtow to the CCP and compromise Apple like Cook is doing. The post 2010-era is now run on bean-counter ethics)

Yes, you’re totally right. When I was growing up in 2000s, Google was the epitome of cool, and I dreamed of working there. Then, when I worked there in mid-to-late 2010s, it was not at all what it had been before.

It’s a little bit more nuanced, China hacked Google, so Google stopped censoring search results, then China banned Google.

They still maintain a rather large office in the university neighbourhood in Beijing. They even moved to bigger one few years back and there was a fire [0]. In Andrew Blum’s book Google is quotes to even “have left a couple of boxes there”, referring to network equipment. They have not really ‘left’.

[0] https://www.thebeijinger.com/blog/2018/12/13/large-fire-erup...

We should not give Google a pass on this. Google does whatever the US Government wants, and lately the US Government has a far worse humanitarian track record than the Chinese government (when you consider all the civilian death and suffering in the middle east over the past few decades).

Google also has an entirely different business model than Apple. You could say they would be in direct competition to the CCP so I don't think this is a reason to hold Google up for their "principles".

It used to be available at ditu.google.cn (only from within China), don't know if it still is.

It's location dependent. Apple Maps shows some areas with different size or labels only when you're inside China.

What happens with satellite view?

What happens in Google Earth?

Google Earth isn't available to the chinese.

Not what I asked...

What does it look like in google earth when you look at the islands?

from OUTSIDE china... Are these same islands 'cencored' in these apps outside china as well in the same manner? (specifically in SATELLITE view)

Right, but I dont see any scaling issues? So I wasnt sure what was being referred to or if "im doing it wrong"?

This is a mind boggling realization. Is OSM data also compromised in the same way?

OpenStreetMap has a page[1] on this. TLDR: Private individuals surveying is illegal in China, which seems to outlaw the entire OSM project and any participation or contribution. I am not a lawyer or expert on Chinese law so who knows.

1: https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/China

That is rather chilling, is it not? That a nation would prevent its citizens from looking around and measuring what they see? I can't help but wonder how the chickens will come home to roost.

No where near as chilling as to be constantly being anxious about your social score, getting disappeared for political speech, overstepping your bounds with a corrupt local government official, and a 100 other things.

Don't forget being disappeared for merely stating that you have been raped by someone who happens to be a powerful political figure.

Or getting your organ harvested while in jail

Chickens can't find their way home if maps are illegal now can they.

They won't even be able to cross the road, hence for the CCP the age old question "Why did the chicken cross the road?" is meaningless :)

They're preventing citizens from publishing that info, not looking around and measuring from what I found.

Imagine a country that prevents its citizens from recording a song they hear and sharing it with their friends. Oh, wait, US more or less does that and forces other countries to implement policies that prevent it or they will ban trade with those countries.

Well said. The level of blind jingoism on HN is chilling.

Not to mention that the US government gets any data it wants from banks, telcos, social media, google, etc., which is called metadata surveillance here in the US but it is used to formulate a variety of social "scores" such as one's likelihood to commit "terrorism", etc.

The US GPS system had the signals obfuscated for years so that precise geo coordinates were only available for non-civilian uses. Why bother altering the maps if you can alter the GPS signals. This was rolled back only because hacks were found to work around it.

>a country that prevents its citizens from recording a song...

False analogy. No-one claims copy-write on the physical world. Well, not except the CCP.

Songs are being played in the physical world.

I think the analogy is perfectly valid anyway. You're just trying to find an excuse to compensate a dissonance. But all rules are arbitrary.

That's not true. Building designs have copyrights as do skylines.

Eg the lights on that tower in france


Building designs are man-made and in any case this is about taking photographs and not replicating man-made designs.

Most of the things we care about on a map are man made too. Roads, tracks, bridges, shops, street addresses. I rarely care about where a mountaintop or a river are. I care for the track to get there or the bridge to cross to the other bank or the road to a restaurant.

That's the chilling thing about Chinese censorship?

> "the chilling thing"

Your comment implies a singular chilling thing, while his does not.

Mostly because every year China would arrest a few Japanese for surveying lands in China. It is funny how surveying a country is so important.

I'm no sympathizer to the CCP, but I don't think this argument makes sense in our time.

There's a big gap between a private individual looking around, and lots of private individuals coordinating to look at everything all the time.

Modern technology is making that gap larger year after year.

That argument would be more appropriate if OSM was about something other than where the streets went.

USSR/Russia also had a very long history of restrictions on accurate maps (of just about anything!), on the basis that it is a national security threat if the country ever gets invaded. Street-level maps were broadly available but deliberately falsified:


Detailed (<1:2500000) topographic maps were automatically classified as a state secret, and restricted on a "need to know" basis outside of the military until 1989.

A detailed article on this explaining how and why they went about it: http://www.hundzor.org/lj/10postnikov.pdf

funnily enough correct and detailed maps of ussr were available in nato countries

True, and people knew it. I used to travel on the bicycle with the help of USSR maps made in early eighties (due to unavailability of other options), and yes, what you saw on the map was sometimes very different from what was in the real life, especially if you were close to the external border.

Until 2000, the US reduced the accuracy of GPS for civilian applications. The UK removed street signs and railway station names in anticipation of German invasion in WWII. Kuwaitis removed street signs when Iraq invaded in 1990.

'Where the streets go' is strategically valuable information.

My understanding is that the resolution of commercially available satellite imagery is restricted by the US. I don't recall details, just passing references from the show "What on Earth?"

Commercial satellite operators licensed in the US are restricted to no more than 25 cm imagery resolution. Of course that limit doesn't apply to foreign operators. And it doesn't apply to aircraft either; many of the "satellite" images you see on Google Maps were actually shot from airplanes.

Sadly anything can be politicized these days.

I am curious about this -- is it more complete to say that zero surveying is allowed without a permit, if it is an individual or company or school or anyone?

Somewhat related, Natural Earth is a global map dataset in the public domain. I stumbled on this issue regarding Taiwan and China: https://github.com/nvkelso/natural-earth-vector/issues/331

Apparently, the resolution was to create political POV versions, although the default seems to lean toward a "Western-centric" direction.

GPS data from the satellites was intentionally "compromised" for all civilian uses until fairly recently. Why alter the maps if you can alter the GPS.


It's the complying not the requiring.

While these are in no way comparable to China's demands, several other countries have also forced satellite imagery vendors to blur out certain sensitive areas.


They are in no way comparable because if an area in a map is blurred I know the information is restricted.

So you just Have to Lie with Maps?


You can't attack another user like this on HN, regardless of how wrong they are or you feel they are. You may not feel you owe them better, but you owe this community much better if you're posting to it.

Since you've unfortunately been breaking the site guidelines repeatedly (and egregiously, e.g. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29237513), I've banned this account.

If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future. They're here: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

"Apple has, and will, fold to government pressure faster than a lawn chair."

As a publicly-traded, trillion dollar company, where profits are at stake, this would seem to make sense.

What does not seem to make sense is why anyone would believe Apple might ignore its own financial interests and those of its shareholders and deliberately sacrifice a major opportunity^1 in order to resist government pressure based on some political issue. Why would anyone hold such an assumption. There is nothing to support it^2 and it does not seem to make any sense.

1. That includes the opportunity for Chinese customers to purchase the Apple Watch, albeit with a disproportional size representation of some geographical aspect in the Maps application

2. NB. If resisting government pressure resulted in an increase or no change in profits then that is a different situation. In that case, resisting, or even appearing to resist governmental pressure, would seem to make sense.

To put it another way, no one should be surprised by decisions like this one, whereas some of us should be surprised if we ever learn that a publicly-traded company with the market cap of Apple deliberately sacrificed an opportunity like selling to the Chinese market^3 because of a political issue. It is doubtful we would ever learn about such a decision, for various reasons.

3. Or using Chinese manufacturing facilities

"But the Maps app had become a priority for Apple..."

Apple acts in its own interests. It seems strange that anyone would believe that it acts in someone else's. Unless it increases profits, that would not make any sense.

Generally, large companies do not protect citizens from abuses of government. It is supposed to the the other way around. Governments are supposed to protect citizens from abuses of large corporations.

> Why would anyone hold such an assumption.

Because that is what Tim Cook Apple's marketing and PR suggest Apple does. The force of good. Social Responsibility and Justice. Standing up against the government. ( They didn't explicitly say this but the message is something fairly similar )

Instead of creating "insanely" great product for our customers, friends and family. It is now about product that "enrich" people's lives.

Like you said, Apple has to act on its own interest. Most of these wouldn't be problem for many had Apple not paint itself as so righteous.

I know a fair number of Americans who are over 50 years old, and appear fairly intelligent - but who, a while after each election, seem actually surprised and offended that the recently-elected politicians are not energetically living up to their campaign promises of squeaky-clean ethics, plentiful jobs, open & responsible government, etc.

Do corporations have so much better a record of living up to feel-good marketing & PR, that a experienced and competent adult would actually take them at their word?

WHAT?? I'm over 50, and after 30+ years of voting and paying attention, have realized that politicians are by and large the lowest, sleaziest, most power-hungry and amoral creatures that can still perhaps be called human. I don't believe a word they say, and think that legislatures should be in session 90 days a year to figure things out and generally get their shit done, and the rest of the time they should have to live with the results of their decisions like the rest of us have to do.

> politicians are by and large the lowest, sleaziest, most power-hungry and amoral creatures that can still perhaps be called human

Just like you and me, then, and the rest of humanity. But we also have good in us, don't we?

And guess what they do when the job ends, turn into CEOs.

You are one our of many

I find this hard to believe.

Standing up against the government is one of the messages of their anti-1984 ad.

No it isn’t. That was about standing up to IBM.

I thought the Big Brother figure on screen looked more like Bill Gates than IBM. The real enemy was Microsoft and Windows.

The first version of Microsoft Windows only appeared a year after that ad. In 1984 Microsoft was just a supplier for IBM.

Microsoft wasn’t the entrenched giant in 1983.

Now we need an ad about standing up to Apple.

No, they never marketed themselves as a company that stands up against the government (to do so means that they don’t understand how power works). Their PR centered around ethical practices is still true where they conduct business in democratic countries.

People should note that just because someone is aiming for an ethical ideal doesn’t mean that the way there is bound to be perfect—those who are quick to point out other people’s hypocrisies always rest on this fallacy. Apple isn’t perfect, but it seems to be the only big tech company making great strides towards being zero-carbon and pushing for user privacy in democratic countries, and when they were called out about parts of their supply chain using oppressed Uighur Muslim labor, they corrected it.

Your reading of that video couldn’t be more wrong. “1984 won’t be like 1984” easily means that they’re ahead of the competition (this was directed at IBM) because they were giving people the future then. It’s not a political or activist statement against the government.

“Ethical practices,” “the App Store,” and the case for “local scanning.”

I seriously disagree with this. I expect a whole hell of a lot more out of American management. Money is not the measurement of all things. Apple could have:

- pointed out China is confusing its politics with business

- thrown this out to a shareholder vote

- tried to see what customers outside of China thought

- threatened to pull all manufacturing out of China

- required China concede control elsewhere: Apple can operate in China without CP mucking around and could own 51% of more of everything it runs

Goodness gracious serious companies understand there's more going on in international business that top-line numbers.

... no, none of these things apply.

1) 'Pointing out to China it's confusing politics with business' implies a total misunderstanding of their posture, their view of governance, and would probably be antagonistically insulting. It also assumes they are operating in 'good faith', which they are not.

'Politics is Business' to them, they know exactly what they are doing and they have most of the leverage so you risk only ire with that tact.

2) 'Thrown this to a shareholder vote' - so this is definitely not the type of things shareholders vote on, nor do they want to, moreover, the 'transparency' and news cycle this would create would be damaging. This is a 'secret agreement' for a good reason. Shareholders do not care about censorship, they generally just want to see performance.

3) What customers outside of China think is completely irrelevant to China.

4) Threatened to pull all manufacturing out. You definitely do not want to threaten your largest market with anything, but yes, you could hint that it might be best elsewhere. That said, it's a magnanimous threat for something relatively small.

5) There is absolutely no way the CCP is going to 'concede' on any of their red line issues. They are dictating the terms of leverage and oversight to Apple and everyone else. Apple has very little room to manoeuvre here.

The only choice cook had was to play friendly on a personal level, kiss ass, make sure that they felt Apple's interest were aligned with China, and to promise to do a bunch of things they were asking, and then hope they go away.

The issue with China's hyper nationalist economic strategy has to be dealt with at a higher level, i.e. US and European political leaders and industry leaders working together on one page.

Apple had choice. They just didn't use it or much of it.

You write like China has a lock on this ... like it's the perfect lobby. There's only one perfect lobby: and that's the NRA in Doonesbury cartoons.

> I expect a whole hell of a lot more out of American management.

> Goodness gracious serious companies understand there's more going on

That's what you get when your management is exclusively MBAs that never set foot outside of their bubbles and STEM-graduates that are naive in history/geopolitics/economy, etc

This is wrong in every way.

I thought it was literately illegal for publicly traded companies not to put profit first unless they were registered as a non profit (or similar special business classes)

Thanks. TIL!

Directors must use their powers in “the best interests of the company.” but "business judgment rule gives directors nearly absolute protection from judicial second-guessing about how to best serve the company and its shareholders."

“utterly false” to quote the article.

Apple shouldn't have to.

There should be laws that US companies can only cowtoe to the US government WRT free speech.

In this case - it appears to only be happening in China - which I guess is fair game.

But the line should be drawn at China being able to use its market to force US companies to censor people outside of China.

Kowtow, which is borrowed from kau tau in Cantonese, is the act of deep respect shown by prostration, that is, kneeling and bowing so low as to have one's head touching the ground. In Sinospheric culture, the kowtow is the highest sign of reverence. -wiki

> it appears to only be happening in China - which I guess is fair game.

I'd say that depends on whether the subsidiary in China is financially independent from the mothership. If Apple in US profits from censorship in China or subsidizes it, it's not unreasonable for US to interfere with that.

I mean - companies are expected to follow the rules of the country they operate in.

I guess with tech companies - "operate in" is a little unclear. Someone in China can visit your website (assuming it's not blocked by TGF) - and it might be very difficult for you to know (they could be using some Proxy or VPN).

In Apple's case - they literally have stores selling phones in China. AFAIK, that's how most people get their iPhones in China.

In the US - you have to pass all kind of FTC obstacles to sell a device. In China & other countries - it's the same way.

It seems like an overstep for the US to say - "We get to say what devices are available in every country." It also seems like an overstep for the US to say China can't have a Great Firewall and Censorship even if that's extremely "un-American". Us having free speech is extremely "un-CCP" - but for the time being - we've still got it [=

It's not an overstep for the US to say "we get to say how American companies behave". This does not translate to "say what devices are available in every country", though - if Apple China can manufacture iPhone by itself, it's welcome to it. Ditto for the Great Firewall. But if the company profits in US from practices that we consider bad, I don't see what's the problem with cracking down on that company.

More abstractly, corporations are artificial legal entities that are created by governments in the first place. So why can't governments restrict what those artificial entities can and cannot do?

I don't think you're grasping the power issue here.

China could give a s*t what American laws are.

They are pressuring Apple to take some actions, if Apple doesn't want to take those actions, for whatever reason including 'American law forbids them' - then they're out of the market.

Those are the terms presented to them, and the CCP is not bluffing.

As far as 'censoring people outside China' that is actually a line that Apple can probably actually hold.

That's fine. China SHOULD NOT have the option to tell American companies that they need to not have free speech in the rest of the world because China doesn't have free speech.

If that starts happening - American companies need to be FORCED to exit the Chinese market and keep free speech. Otherwise, it's a simple P&L calculation - and China will win. Apple is not going to lose 20% of their global sales because they block some Wikipedia articles about Tiananmen Square. But if China cuts off their sales because they won't - they would lose 20% of their sales. If we allow companies to go down this path - the entire world will end up censored pretty quickly.

Just as China does not care about American law - US companies don't give a shit about human rights. They just give a shit about P&L.

"China SHOULD NOT have the option to tell American companies that they need to not have free speech in the rest of the world because China doesn't have free speech."

So again, that 'feels right' - but this is not a 'moral' issue, it's a 'power' issue.

That it's 'unreasonable' that China should be able to censor outside of it's borders is kind of besides the point.

What matters is the materiality of their power.

In China, they can basically dictate terms and that's it.

China could feasibly threaten to block Apple in China unless some 'foreign censorship' is done on their behalf, the reason US companies should not concede, is because they don't have to.

For a couple of small things, they might get away with it but on the whole, it's something Apple can push back on ... because they can, not because they have some kind of moral high ground.

The social/moral posturing will be used as part of negotiation, but it's just superficial dressing on the underlying power.

US, Can, Aus, Europe need to get on the same page with respect to China.

> US, Can, Aus, Europe need to get on the same page with respect to China.

I feel deja vu from the beginning of WWII - Germany growing and gaining power and becoming more aggressive while nearby countries (and further-away ones - US+CA+AU) are ignoring the threat, or trying to pacify them with small concessions and sacrifices...

> There should be laws that US companies can only cowtoe to the US government WRT free speech.

Completely agree.

If one made this assumption with respect to this example, then one would have made an incorrect assumption. No doubt we could make a long list of examples where this assumption would have been incorrect, but we would likely need better visibility into the decisions Apple is making behind-the-scenes. Apple is a very secretive company.

Because once it gets sufficiently well known, it may back-fire in the long run in their "home market" (which is still their most lucrative, even if the potential for growth is not that big).

This is why it's important for the public in stronger democracies to know about these deals and terms.

Compare the NBA reaction to Daryl Morey tweet about HK protests, and the WTA reaction to Peng Shui situation. Tides are shifting.

But, the appeal of such a large consumerist market (funny, since it's supposedly "communist") like China is not going to become any easier to ignore going forward.

I worked on the buy-side. I would make this assumption 100% of the time, 100%. Every single time I have seen a company ignore stuff like this, it has bitten them in the end. To flip this on it's head, I have also never seen a management team under pressure for failing to do something like this.

The weird thing about your viewpoint is that it gives the perception of capitalism without actually understanding anything about how businesses function. It is like the pro-capitalist government employee's understanding of capitalism. It accepts capitalism but also accepts that capitalism is evil...it is a very weird viewpoint (you also see this in the ESG departments of large fund managers...people who hate capitalism, view it as inherently unfair...but work at a fund manager, it is very 2020s).

But to spell it out: if you do not respect stakeholders other than shareholders, your business will die because no-one needs you. Your shareholders needing you is not why a business exists. A business exists because it creates value for other people. One of the biggest problems today is that corporate leaders do not understand this, and they end up losing shareholders massive amounts of money. But it is important to be very clear: Tim Cook is a wage worker, executives are wage workers, they are not business owners, they do not act like business owners, their aim is not to maximise shareholder value, their aim is to maximise their wealth. If there is ownership, it is a dual share class dictatorship, it isn't an alignment of interests.

The big problem with China is that, whether you sign deals with the govt or not, the govt needs to have direct control over businesses in order to maintain political control. We are talking about a country where large businesses have CCP officials inside the business, the red phone to the CCP in the CEO's office...business is politics, AAPL doing this deal means they are part of the CCP. The CCP don't care about your shareholders, they don't care about your employees or customers, their aim is to stay in govt and die at an old age in their bed, not violently hanging from a lamppost. That is why the govt heavily favours large businesses, that is why they have done deals with large US tech companies (MSFT is the other one, MSFT are neck deep in Chinese politics now) but it won't work.

I actually know people who are very familiar with the thinking on this at AAPL. They do not understand Chinese politics at all. They think China is just a better version of the US, more meritocratic (seriously), less political instability (again, seriously), and more accommodating to special interests (...seriously). I think the assumption people make is: AAPL understand what is going on...they do not, the reason they are doing things like this is because they don't understand (AAPL is one of the worst for this kind of thing, their executives are extremely aggressive in everything they do, they take home far more than they are worth, and they understand almost nothing outside of their business...if you look at GOOGL or AMZN, it is quite different).

I agree with most of what you wrote, but regarding Tim Cook working for a wage, most of his wealth has in fact come from Apple stock. He just received 5 million shares. His $15M non stock compensation is a lot of money for most but I wouldn’t classify him as being purely out for his own wealth.


The key word there is "received". He didn't buy stock himself, he was given it, he is a wage worker.

He is purely out for his own wealth. He is one of the most absurdly overpaid execs in the US. How anyone can become a billionaire as an employee is utterly beyond me. Taking no risk, getting all the reward.

> How anyone can become a billionaire as an employee is utterly beyond me.

You are thinking of all employees as fungible replaceable units, but employees are capitalistic units that can get monopoly power or economic rents.

An employee can provide a function that can’t be replaced, and that employee can capture a lot of the business profits, well beyond their actual “value” to the business. For example, Tim Cook’s personal relationship with Chinese officials might be very hard to replace.

Alternatively there is a kind of blackmail value, where losing a prominent employee can have high costs to the business, and the employee can get paid more than they are “worth” due to that. For example, perhaps Tim Cook leaving would cause more than a few billion damage in profits or valuation due to perceptions.

No, I didn't. I said execs are replaceable...and they are. If you replace Tim Cook with a ham sandwich, it will make no difference to AAPL at all. It is very rare (I have never seen it) where the SP will fall because of a CEO leaving, it is more common for it to rise when a CEO leaves.

Again, it is important to realise too...there are probably no other CEOs that have made as much as Tim Cook. Even amongst execs, he is wildly wildly wildly overpaid. Corporate governance at AAPL is basically non-existent.

I would presume that the board know what they are doing: hogFeast why do you presume you are better informed and can make a better decision than they can?

The obvious relevant example of replacing a CEO with a ham sandwich is John Sculley, which the organisation probably still has some fear about. The other relevant example is Paul Allen, a lost decade for Microsoft.

Yes, corporations are sociopaths. And ycombinator funds the sociopaths.

I totally get that people want companies to act with dignity, but the idea that a company, even one as large as Apple, is going to make any sort of difference with respect to China's oddities is wishful thinking.

Apple has a business to run. They abide by all sorts of requests in various countries in which they operate. Of course there has to be a line somewhere, I'm just not sure this is it.

It seems fashionable to preach helplessness. Apple can't change China by themselves, but they are not by themselves. If we all follow that reasoning, then nothing ever happens. To surrender and retreat from the field of battle is a sure way to lose. Despair is a leading psyops tactic - targeted at enemies; let's not help them.

It would be interesting to talk about what organizations like Apple can and cannot do; what is effective and what isn't. Is there any research?

Apple should not be deceiving people outside China with CCP propaganda, which is what the maps are.

Apple is arbitrarily vulnerable to the CCP who can essentially shut down most of Apple’s worldwide manufacturing if it comes to that.

Until Apple has a redundant supply and manufacturing chain, it’s absurd to expect them to resist the CCP.

I hope they are building it.

How are they deceiving people outside China when only showing the difference inside China?

Well, for one thing because we outside China would automatically assume they are showing the same thing inside China as we see. Now we know that is not true. That is deceptive.

... And a a shareholder, I was also kept in the dark -- Which is actually also pretty problematic and deceptive.

That just means you don’t know about China and the CCP. Anyone who did would never ‘automatically’ assume such a thing.

As for being a shareholder kept in the dark, that’s absurd. I am a shareholder too, and almost no operational details about apple are available to us, which is totally normal.

I wouldn't assume that because anyone who knows anything about different politics in different countries would know that companies there have to cooperate and comply with local laws and all that implies.

They don't have to do anything. If local law said Apple had to share all its technology with the CCP, I bet they'd find a way not to do it. It's a matter of priority and choice.

LOL. So as a shareholder you get to see Iphone 14 model months before launch?

> Well, for one thing because we outside China would automatically assume they are showing the same thing inside China as we see. Now we know that is not true. That is deceptive.

Would you expect a big pop "WARNING: THIS CONTENT IS SHOWN DIFFERENTLY IN MAINLAND CHINA DUE TO REGULATIONS!"? Also, this will mostly yield a well-duh response. The only "appropriate" option in scale would be to put it somewhere in the fine print (IMO), but this is so close to not mentioning it at all that they might as well not.

Also, I don't think there's a general expectation for website to be the same everywhere. If you open google.com from Germany, would you be suprised to see Google in German? Project Gutenberg also was unavailable in Germany for quite some time; I don't think they informed every non-German reader about it.

> ... And a[s] a shareholder, I was also kept in the dark -- Which is actually also pretty problematic and deceptive.

I'm pretty sure they don't inform shareholders over standard legal requests. They probably didn't ping you about FCC restricted radio frequencies either.

It's not that I generally agree with censoring, but I don't think Apple acted unreasonably here.

> How are they deceiving people outside China when only showing the difference inside China?

I must have misunderstood. Thanks for pointing that out.

We can find other examples, however. For example, Apple avoiding movies, etc. on Apple TV that challenge the CCP.

Well, everyone could start by avoid buying "made-in-china" as much as possible, yet I see exactly the opposite.

Lots of moral on the Internet, but then when it touches getting the next gadget, or saving some bucks...

Imagine getting an email from Apple telling you that you're laid off because you job is less important than sending a stern message to China. Apple then loses billions of dollars of revenue to Huawei and Xiaomi, but can you really place a price on feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside?

If you want to control what maps Apple shows in China, then ask the government to do it. Assuming you can convince Congress to do anything at all, they still wouldn't take any meaningful action against China because they aren't going to voluntarily widen our trade deficit. We barely have enough economic leverage to pressure them to be slightly better at enforcing IP. We aren't going to spare any for meaningless virtue signaling.

> It would be interesting to talk about what organizations like Apple can and cannot do; what is effective and what isn't. Is there any research?

It took extreme sanctions and the most sophisticated cyberattack in history to get Iran to make concessions on its nuclear program (until Trump decided to reject the agreement). China has a much stronger economy and more allies.

> Imagine getting an email from Apple telling you that you're laid off

Isn't that exactly what Apple did by moving factories to China?

Congress and the US government take many aggressive actions against China. Recently, members of Congress personally visited Taiwan to express support for them. A current bill imposes sanctions on China for Xinjing human rights abuses, and President Biden imposed a 'diplomatic boycott' of the upcoming Olympics for the same reason. The Pentagon is openly focusing its efforts on China, including providing nuclear submarine technology to Australia - a historic first besides the UK.

A diplomatic boycott at the Olympics during a pandemic and sanction of a dozen or so people are meaningless virtue signals. The other actions align with American geopolitical interests. What is suggested upthread is that Apple ought to sacrifice interests in order to fight China.

I was responding to this claim:

> Assuming you can convince Congress to do anything at all, they still wouldn't take any meaningful action against China because they aren't going to voluntarily widen our trade deficit.

Clearly Congress (and the Executive Branch, which is responsible for foreign policy) does plenty that is meaningful.

By doing something meaningful, I mean doing good for the sake of doing good at the cost of something you care about. People are arguing that Apple should sacrifice their revenue just to uphold their principles. The government would never do the equivalent thing, e.g. sacrifice geopolitical leverage in exchange for advancing humanitarian causes.

Have you noticed just how sensitive the CCP leadership is about its image? Every perceived slight is a black eye to them.

That is just their own brand of virtue signaling. I doubt they actually care. China doesn't give up anything they don't particularly care about in the first place. They'll call for a boycott of Nike, which conveniently helps domestic companies. Manufacturers are still encouraged to offer their services to Nike though because they wouldn't want to their citizens to lose their jobs.

Its not reasonable for us "we the people" to expect a profit seeking company to turn its back on profit. If we want it to behave a particular way we need to make rules for it to follow. Companies are no people with feeling and morals. They are machines for making money.

> Companies are no people with feeling and morals. They are machines for making money.

Companies do moral things all the time, being run by people and being, like people, tied to a community that they care about (often, to a degree) and which greatly affects the company. Without enlightened self-interest, and some broader self-interest, the society that provides customers, investors, employees, roads, security, markets, etc. - it collapses. The Middle Ages weren't good for business.

It's funny that people quickly forget the meaning of the word "company": it's a "group of people" (companions).

There are some additional rules for public companies, but in general, businesses can have whatever purpose "members of the company" (it's actually a legal term in many jurisdictions) agree on.

Machines run by people who should damn well know better.

I know this would never happen, but I wish companies would just default to not doing business in China, unless they are able to sell their product, uncompromised. I wouldn't mind legislation to that effect, though I'm sure that would come with a ton of unintended consequences.

If China (and similar repressive regimes) wants these sorts of products with onerous restrictions built in, they should have to build them themselves.

Of course, I do recognize that this is perhaps somewhat hypocritical: the OFAC list in the US comes to mind (which makes it illegal for US entities to do business with entities in certain "bad" countries). I'm reminded of GitHub's fight to allow people from Iran to use GitHub. I get the purpose of sanctions on Iran, but hurting regular Iranian citizens with these sorts of bans does nothing to punish or put pressure on the people who are actually the targets of sanctions.

I support that. At the same time I assume you have written this in a device manufactured in China together with many companies there object we have in our daily lives. Are enough of us willing to abstain from these devices?

Ah, just pointing to a cartoon doesn't make an argument irrefutable.

Ah, the ol' "No ethical consumption under capitalism so I do not need to care about what I consume" argument. Just because injustice is so widespread in the world does not mean that we do not have the responsibility of our own impact upon the world.

Nothing hypocritical there at all, in both cases you are against a government that is placing itself in the way of normal people and unfiltered access to information/tools.

> If China (and similar repressive regimes) wants these sorts of products with onerous restrictions built in, they should have to build them themselves.

I'd also like to add that they are, for the most part, already building our products quite literally. Being on the bad side of China might've a farther reach than just missing out on a few customers.

And apple is one of the few companies that could change that with more US or other non-dictatorship country investment. Apple has 200 billion in cash and other securities... Build some infrastructure, build a lobbying arm to get some of these infrastructure spending gridlocks fixed, build somewhere other than china.

Yeah it's hard, but if they aren't willing to do it, maybe we as a society should enact laws to force their hand? It's not like it's an impossible task.

I know this would never happen, but I wish people would just default to not buying products made in China....

Sure it will happen: once their products are not that much less expensive, and it's going to come quickly.

The only worry is if that's also the point where their products will also be more advanced and thus more appealing regardless of the price.

Which means people just put money before morals, while bashing Apple at the same time.

When I see state capital or communist societies, I see "single whale that has to purchase at inflated prices"

I'll spin up a British Virgin Islands company or buy another passport first in response to any legislation aimed at preventing business with those whales

Others are already 5 steps ahead of me

Why not simply renounce your citizenship now if you feel you should owe no duty to maintain any kind of national security policy?

Private citizens don’t maintain the US’ national security policy, as this article clearly shows, but you are commenting on a theoretical reality that has lacked consensus or wasnt even on the table during every administration of the same country.

Alternatively, US citizenship doesn't guarantee any beneficiary of national security or evacuation from another place when shit hits the fan.

So before I answer your question, what did you mean specifically?

I think these things have a corrupting influence on the principles of the company over time: https://zalberico.com/essay/2020/06/13/zoom-in-china.html

It's better to figure out an exit (imo) than continue to capitulate on these kinds of things, particularly in a country that is hostile to foreign companies and IP (and particularly if one of your company values is the privacy of your users).


>>Peter Thiel: Well I think, again those aren’t the only two possibilities, I don’t think they created very much, I think a lot of it was just handed over from the west so it wasn’t even stolen.

You know, I criticized Google a few years ago for refusing to work on its AI technology on Project Maven with the U.S. military, but working with Chinese universities and Chinese researchers. And since everything in China is a civilian- military fusion, Google was effectively working with the Chinese military, not with the American military. And there was sort of this question, “Why Google was doing this?” And one of the things that I was sort of told by some of the insiders at Google was they figured they might as well give the technology out through the front door, because if they didn’t give it – it would get stolen anyway.

>>Peter Thiel: I had a set of conversations with some of the Google people in the deep mind AI technology, “is your AI being used to run the concentration camps in Xinjiang?” and “Well, We don’t know and don’t ask any questions.” You have this almost magical thinking that by pretending that everything is fine, that’s how you engage and have a conversation. And you make the world better. And it’s some combination of wishful thinking. It’s useful idiots, you know, it’s CCP fifth columnist collaborators. So it’s some super position of all these things. But I think if you think of it ideologically or in terms of human rights or something like that, I’m tempted to say it’s just profoundly racist. It’s like saying that because they look different, they’re not white people, they don’t have the same rights. It’s something super wrong. But I don’t quite know how you unlock that.


Not disagreeing with what Thiel is saying here, but it's pretty hypocritical for him to be criticizing here considering he's the co-founder of Palantir, a company that feeds some tasty tasty morsels to the surveillance state and military-industrial complex.

Pointing out someone else's hypocrisy isn't an inconsistency. If someone says doing business with a military is unacceptable and then proceeds to do business with a military, they're a hypocrite. That's still true even if the person telling you this does business with a military.

> "If someone says doing business with a military is unacceptable"

Thiel hasn't even done that. His position seems to be that American companies should work with the US Military, but shouldn't work with the Chinese military. Such a position is certainly partisan, but it isn't hypocritical.

> Such a position is certainly partisan

Try patriotic, or more cynically nationalistic.

Partisan fits. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/partisan

1. An adherent to a party or faction. 2. A fervent, sometimes militant, supporter or proponent of a party, cause, faction, person, or idea.

Maybe that word isn't judgemental enough for you, but it fits and I used it carefully.

Both of these are instances of partisanship.

Is it hypocritical to work with the US military, and not the Chinese military?

Is your justification for not working with the Chinese military that working with a military is unacceptable?

Clearly it isn't Peter Thiel's justification. So kelnos is wrong in calling this hypocrisy.

It seems he's drawing a distinction at domestic vs. foreign actors. The criticism at Google here is against working to enable the US military vs. what is a thin veil of enabling the Chinese military hiding behind a veil.

It’s also about a defense of the west and western liberalism over China and the CCP authoritarianism.

It’s Google leadership capitulating to the (imo naive) politics of its workforce to not work with the USG, while continuing to support the governments of adversaries (because largely American politics ignores the plight of people in places like KSA and China under a weak kind of moral relativism).

It’s only hypocritical if you find the American and Chinese governments morally equivalent.

He's not opposed to the surveillance state or military-industrial complex (in fact, he's in favor of them in the US), he's opposed to China's government.

Thiel seems to genuinely believe the USA, and the west in general, is in an existential struggle with forces intent on destroying it. I can’t speak for him, but maybe Islamic fundamentalists, authoritarian autocracies like Russia, Chinese communism, etc.

If you genuinely believe that, then putting ever more powerful intelligence gathering tools in the hands of western governments, even at some risk of threats to freedoms in the west, might seem reasonable.

That’s especially true if you have good confidence in the checks and balances in the free west to prevent the worst abuses of such tools, and that the threats are truly dire.

Yes - Palantir was born out of 9/11. The idea being that US institutions need software that actually works and has tight controls around PCL.

Otherwise more attacks will happen and the reflexive response will be an increase in authoritarianism at the expense of western ideals.

I don’t personally agree with his support of trump (I see it as a partisan blind spot because of his Cato institute Republican identity) to me trump increases authoritarian risk in the US. Otherwise I agree with a lot of Thiel’s positions, even where I disagree it’s rare that his position is not thoughtful.

> Thiel seems to genuinely believe the USA, and the west in general, is in an existential struggle with forces intent on destroying it.

As much as I dislike Thiel, he does have a point there: Russia is actively funding misinformation campaigns with the aim of splintering Europe (e.g. by funding far-right political parties like the AfD in Germany or the Brexiteers in the UK), and China is a threat on a geo-political level (New Belt Road) as well as a military threat (e.g. Taiwan), not to mention their Third Reich-inspired genocide against the Uyghurs and Tibetans.

The world is in a "war of cultures" indeed - the remnants of the Western democracies versus strong authoritarian governments. And we haven't found a way to counter Russian or Chinese political ambitions yet.

> That’s especially true if you have good confidence in the checks and balances in the free west to prevent the worst abuses of such tools, and that the threats are truly dire.

Under normal circumstances, that confidence would be valid. Unfortunately, we have our own actors who have an interest in tearing down these "checks and balances" for their own gains (e.g. the Republicans systematically destroying trust in public institutions, from elections to the integrity of the FBI, or Poland and Hungary where the rulers want to stay in power and enrich themselves and their friends)... which means we as Western nations are in a "lose-lose" situation. We can't combat propaganda effectively for a variety of reasons, and as a result of that the propaganda tears down our societies.

> Thiel seems to genuinely believe the USA, and the west in general, is in an existential struggle with forces intent on destroying it. I can’t speak for him, but maybe Islamic fundamentalists, authoritarian autocracies like Russia, Chinese communism, etc.

I believe such a struggle exists as well. But I have my doubts whether one would find him fighting AGAINST the authoritarians.

It is no more hypocritical than US government supporting US military, and opposing Chinese military. Thiel is just on team USA, that’s all.

He's not against national and state power; rumors or accusations of him being a libertarian are greatly exaggerated, for sure.

He's just pro-Western civilization and pro-US.

I can’t go into it, but this is a misunderstanding of what Palantir does.

I can't go into it, but ...

> Apple has a business to run.

"Apple" is not some abstract entity. There are people behind Apple (the shareholders, the managers, the employees). Real people, with real morals and values. I don't think that the only thing all of them care about is "running a business" and that all of them feel it absolves them from acting humanly. It's more complicated than that. (having said that, of course, greed is always strong).

>There are people behind Apple

I think that is precisely why this has been leaked. Some people inside Apple obviously are fed up with what Apple is doing. I would imagine especially those working in operation and supply chain.

There were lots of signs this was happening since 2016 if you are watching Apple supply chain over the years. But it is the first time we got some sort of evidence.

Like the same people that buy products knownligy that they were produced in China, and when given the option will always go for the cheaper version instead of the moral one?

Apple has an actual fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders. And via survival bias, companies that act purely morally simply cease to exist as they are out competed by companies that focus on profit instead. Such entities simply can't survive via capitalism without, perhaps, government regulation that ensures everyone is playing with the same set of rules.

> Apple has an actual fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders.

That fiduciary responsibility meme needs to die already. The flimsiest business justification is enough to cover company leadership's ass. Instead of "We refuse to do business with China because it's immoral" they need merely say "because we believe it's in the long term strategic interests of the company."

> That fiduciary responsibility meme needs to die already.

Again, stop it. The companies you want exist, they just go insolvent before you ever notice them. If you want to change the way the companies operate, you have to change the system, you can't just expect companies to "do the right thing" in an environment that penalizes them for that.

You can't have the free market cake and eat the ideological high ground at the same time.

You take me for what, a libertarian? Do you think you know me? I never said anything about wanting a "free market cake."

Regardless, nothing you said refutes me. "Fiduciary responsibility" does not legally compel Apple to do business in China. If anything, such misconceptions about fiduciary duty are espoused by libertarians online, not rebuked by them.

My point was that if Apple didn't adhere to maximizing profits, they simply wouldn't exist and we wouldn't be talking about their behavior in China. Regardless of whether you are a libertarian or not, you are wagging your finger at the wrong party (or to say, the party isn't really in a position to fix things). If you want change, it has to be via whoever is setting/enforcing the rules (in our case, government). The USA, ironically unlike China, doesn't really have the framework to force companies to adhere to some kind of moral code (outside of national security, etc...).

And even if we go down that rabbit hole, we just become more like China with some kind of state mandated moral code that can be easily perverted...maybe we can't really win on this.

Yeah they would exist.

Lots of companies are able to exist without giving in to completely silly demands like "increase the size of these islands".

> If you want change

Actually, customers are able to cause lots of economic damages to companies, or their employees.

There is more that one way to Target Apple employees than what you suggested.

For example?

Well, for example, people and companies could target any of the employees directly, who work on those kinds of deals.

Target them personally, make them personally responsible for the actions that they did while thinking that they were some faceless entity in the machine, and make them toxic entities to hire or work with.

Sure, the company itself might be able to insulate itself from consequences, but not the individuals themselves. It would make people think twice about the actual negative effects of their actions, if they knew it would put them on blacklists.

Companies are run by people. It is not some faceless AI. Instead, decisions are made by individuals. And individuals are vulnerable.

All of that is completely irrelevant to my point, which is that fiduciary duty does not compel Apple to do business with China. You were peddling a falsehood.

Furthermore, this has already come up in the past for Apple:

When pressed about the financial prudence of prioritizing environmental outcomes Tim Cook snapped: "When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don't consider the bloody ROI." It was also not limited to accessibility, but applicable to many areas Apple desires to lead.

The conclusion is that Apple is explicitly not interested in prioritizing individual liberty.

> purely morally

Must they be pure or completely evil?

Companies have many focuses, including profit, of course, and also morality. Look at the behaviors of the world's leading companies. They need to survive and operate in society, not a Darwinian cleanroom, and they will lose a lot of customers, employees, investors, sympathetic elected officials, and more if they act like objectivists.

The evil corporation writes the law "requiring" it to behave evilly, and their pet legislature passes it.

> Apple has a business to run. They abide by all sorts of requests in various countries in which they operate.

And then people rightly condemn them for it. Because not getting a pass even when the pressure is strong -- especially when the pressure is strong -- is the only incentive we can give them to even try to resist that pressure.

That sucks for them. It puts them between a rock and a hard place.

Too bad.

Because the alternative is that nobody fights against wrong.

> Too bad.

Also, too bad because they are hardly orphan children caught on a battlefield. They are among the most power actors out there. I'd say, 'deal with it', but they don't complain.

Ironically the same people that at the end of the day might have plenty of "made-in-china" products at home.

We can have a very long debate about that but I think it's beside the point with regards to Apple's CSAM effort. The point is that Apple is inventing a tool that is very amenable to being wielded as a weapon of mass surveillance, and oppression.

The maps analogy is that it's one thing for the Chinese government to tell Apple to implement a mapping app from scratch so that it can be used to display bogus mapping data. It's quite another for the Chinese government to tell Apple to modify its existing Maps app data.

In light of the inherent amorality of companies that you are pointing out, the people working in these companies should be smart enough not to go out of their way to place themselves in situations with such moral hazards. Apple shouldn't be building weapons.

We’ll, what Apple built with CSAM checking is a tool that checks images uploaded to their servers, and only those images, against a digital fingerprint.

There is no novel technology in this. It’s very basic stuff doing a specific thing. It’s in no way a meaningful stepping stone to doing anything else.

If you’re against Apple scanning images uploaded to iCloud for CSAM that’s fine, say that, but it’s no stepping stone. If you’re not against Apple scanning CSAM uploaded to their servers, as they are actually required to do by law, then it’s a non-issue.

> We’ll, what Apple built with CSAM checking is a tool that checks images uploaded to their servers, and only those images, against a digital fingerprint.

No, that's not how any of it works. Apple scans and matches your photos, on your device, against a list of hashes that represent government provided images that Apple has no knowledge of. The stipulation that images are only scanned when uploaded to Apple servers is a courtesy, not a technical limitation. The exact courtesy that would be rescinded by pressure from the Chinese government.

> If you’re not against Apple scanning CSAM uploaded to their servers, as they are actually required to do by law, then it’s a non-issue.

The law explicitly stipulates that Apple is _not_ required to scan photos for CSAM. The text of the law [1] explicitly protects people's privacy in the section titled "Protection of Privacy".

[1] https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2258A

>The stipulation that images are only scanned when uploaded to Apple servers is a courtesy, not a technical limitation. The exact courtesy that would be rescinded by pressure from the Chinese government.

The scan is performed in the code that does the uploading, so it is a hard limitation of the implementation. They can't push a button to make it scan other photos, they would have to make significant code changes. Not hard code changes, none of this is hard or a major technology achievement, but the current implementation does one specific thing and that thing only.

On the legal requirement, huh, it looks like you're quite right. They are choosing to scan for CSMA loaded into their service. Good for them.

There's nothing to stop the Chinese government requiring Apple to make whatever code changes they require anyway.

It was not only their severs, they scrapped plans to check local user content. If it was only their servers, there would have been no uproar.

It was only when upload to iCloud was enabled which is functionally equivalent to a check on server (and enables future roll out of encrypted content on the sever).

The CSAM issue was mostly misunderstood by HN imo.

So then yes it was done on the user's device.

You just agree with the complaint that yes apple was scanning people's devices in certain circumstances.

As long as we are clear about the circumstances, and we're not misrepresenting the situation so it appears it can scan photos not being uploaded to iCloud, sure.

The intention of the implementation is that if a user asks Apple to upload CSAM to iCloud, that Apple has the ability to check it and stop that CSAM landing on their servers. They don't want it there, and feel they have a right to check for it in advance so their servers are clear of CSAM and it stays on the user's phone. Frankly I think that's a reasonable attitude to take to CSAM.

> and feel they have a right to check for it in advance

Ok, and thats the problem. Because the scan is on the user's device. No, I don't think they should have the right to use someone else's device, that the individual owns, like that.

I dont have a problem with your narrative. Actually I agree with your narrative. Every companies has business to run.

I just have a problem with Apple suggesting they are doing "good" with X, promising "good" with Y, with a big smile on its face in marketing, pumping up PR to the maximum. But every time you scrutinize the details they just dont hold up.

BTW people may want to look at Samsung's market share in China. Hint: it is a single digit number.

IBM, Hugo Boss etc also had business to run. But for the western people Apple taking out the rainbow flag and talking about their social responsibility I'd enough.

Don't be an apologists for these companies.

These megacorps have a big influence on the fabric of society.

They must be held to a higher standard.

Each should start by their own circle of influence by not buying products made against their morals.

That’s all op said. Regardless of the moralizing, if you buy into apple because they market themselves as the company who will stand up for your privacy, remember that it’s just marketing. Apple has a business to run, and they’ll fold to government pressure like a lawn chair.

> but the idea that a company, even one as large as Apple, is going to make any sort of difference with respect to China's oddities is wishful thinking.

They don't need and shouldn't make any difference at all. They could actually leave the Chinese market and make a difference for the rest of the world. They don't have and shouldn't have this responsibility anyway.

And they have the money, market share, and power to ignore China and not only survive it but continue to generate a lot of wealth for the shareholders.

I was at a company that defied the 1980s business embargo in South Africa. They said similar things at the time. The government of South Africa did fall, and most of the world applauded if I recall. The net effect for this business was, that they earned more money by ignoring the embargo, whatever the outcome. There are insulting names in most languages for this kind of behavior, it is not new.

There is no embargo on China (in this context) though. The world has not agreed to not do business with them.

The world as a whole never will. If Western powers try and sanction non compliant countries this will effectively split the world into 2 parts and it is not going to end well. I think this would be total disaster.

That is a good question about why there is more emphasis on companies doing political advocacy rather than one's own government. It seems too weighted in companies doing the heavy lifting when this is likely to interfere with business objectives.

Local investment requests however aren't novel - India have made similar requests which Apple have also fulfilled. China is only notable here because they have consistent human rights abuse issues, and with that there is a certain idealism that any kind of interaction with such a country is a form of consent.

While Apple's situation here isn't particularly noteworthy, it's a good proxy for a wider question about US companies reliance on China.

Also those with a keen eye would notice that China hasn't given Apple much here - they are still regularly admonished by the state-run press and Apple have only a handful of their most basic services available in the country.

> That is a good question about why there is more emphasis on companies doing political advocacy rather than one's own government.

Great point. Some movements are so anxious to minimize (or undermine) goverment that people get carried away, and forget all the things democracies can do and have done. We simply have to decide to do things as a people. China, for sure, is happy to see us divided.

I somewhat agree, I’m not saying it would be the right or intelligent thing to do, but if we as a country collectively feel that we should not do business with China in certain fields, the only answer with teeth is an embargo. Even then the risk of Apple sales to China doesn’t go to zero, everyone remembers IBM selling typewriters to the Nazis. Do we think companies today are less greedy than IBM?

Consider removing MFN trade status from China. Back in 1993, Clinton and Pelosi supported MFN status for China. Just undo it.


Apple Maps is operated by AutoNavi (a Chinese company) in China [1].

It doesn’t really make sense that the Chinese government would be pressuring Apple directly to make political changes to the map provided by AutoNavi. If they wanted the map drawn differently they could just pass a law requiring it or go straight to AutoNavi with the request.

Of course the story could still be true (I have no idea), but not mentioning AutoNavi kind of strains its credibility.

1. https://www.apple.com/legal/privacy/data/en/apple-maps/

The CSAM controversy is dumb. The real “folding under pressure” example is the neutering of iMessage.

Notice the FBI doesn’t whine about iPhones anymore.

The irony is the CSAM measures they were doing may have enabled them to encrypt the iCloud iMessage backups since they’d still be able to help the feds with CSAM.

Instead everything remains unencrypted.


Frankly it makes me doubt the veracity of some of the activists who go off the handle when these types of controversies pop up.

Literally every online storage service is analyzing user content for various reasons, but I don’t see any hue and cry over it. The Apple approach was a novel take imo.

Yeah - it's quite frustrating because dumb knee-jerk responses like what we saw on HN make it harder to push back on actual bad policy.

Another recent one was the Covid bluetooth exposure notifications that were cleverly designed in a way that preserved privacy. People on HN with no understanding of how it worked freaked out and as a result instead of that smart privacy preserving approach governments just bought location data or implemented other centralized information systems that are much worse for privacy.

If I worked in policy it'd be hard not to roll eyes at the privacy people and just ignore them - which is definitely not what we want.

You can use another messaging app that supports encryption. Some of us don’t want your laziness resulting in local scanners on devices that we have paid for.

Then don’t enable iCloud backup. If you do enable iCloud backup you’ll have your images scanned in both cases.

There’s functionally no difference, except one offers a future path to encryption on iCloud servers.

If this was about on device scanning without iCloud backup enabled then I’d agree with you, but it’s not.

Congrats, you “won” on an issue that wasn’t an issue and missed the actual problem.

Since the 90s, there has always been a mainstream private option. Be it Nextel, BlackBerry PIN, prepaid phones, iMessage, FaceTime, etc. Now that’s gone, and fringe stuff like Signal isn’t a replacement.

This level of pretense is really mind boggling to me. It underscores how certain regimes/people fear objective reality more than anything. And it's a very inconvenient position to take since objective reality is everywhere.

While tangential, when I last visited South Korea, only local mapping companies were able to offer maps of the country.

Apple / Google maps were so bare, even the proverbial crickets were missing from the maps.

When looked from my desk, Seoul's map is as detailed as any other big city now, I wonder whether it was geofenced or something. I installed a suite of apps made by local software houses to be able to navigate the city.

During the height of the Cold War, the US required maps and textbooks to show only portions of the USSR and never show US and USSR next to each other.

Hard for me to imagine the mindset of a bureaucratic drone who demands that people change the definition of physical reality.

On a contrary. Many of them are totally dumb and things like common logic and compassion are a foreign subject to them.

Here is cherry on the cake from the Australian PM:

"The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia."

Well, you don't have accept the laws of nature and humanity is resisting a great deal, luckily, so that isn't necessarily something indicting. Depends on the context.

Context maters but that was pretty dumb thing to say regardless.

Does anyone have any insight into the motivation behind making the islands appear larger? I haven't been able to come up with any plausible guesses about what "make the islands look big" would be helpful in achieving.

It's pretty simple, China claims large parts of the south China sea, parts that extend far, far out of their maritime bounds and go into other countries' territories. They have a variety of justifications, one of which is they they dredge some reefs and make them into islands which they then claim. This particular instance is not in the south China sea, but it's all the same.

It might also be to get Chinese citizens to care more about having sovereignty over those islands. Laypeople in China might care more about the issue if the islands look big rather than looking like "oh who cares about that mound of dirt anyways".

This is mostly strategic: China is effectively hemmed in by Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and a bunch of SE Asian countries. They simply don't have easy access to the ocean from a military point of view (they are easily cut off during a war). They are trying to claim the whole of the SCS to fortify it and ensure open routes in case of a war.

It does seem awfully unfair looking at a map though, basically China's claim comes without 10 miles of other country land borders. Nobody but the Chinese would think these claims are fair.

The “Mine is bigger than yours” decree

Actually, the Diaoyu Islands belong to Taiwan.


Actually, that article describes the islands' status as disputed.

False information.

I don't doubt it, as far as mapping propaganda is concerned, India is the worst offender.

See Kashmir and Askai Chin.


Thinking about this other than things like existing social media, satellites... I've recently seen ads where it's like "get paid to take pictures of your neighborhood". Was wondering about that as a means to export out high res images of locations through an app.

FAANG and other megacorps enable China from doctoring maps to censoring movies.

Apple did all of this because they couldn't stand paying decent wages to US workers, so they outsourced Labour to China. Why people stand by this company...

Legal obligation to maximize shareholder value + fiat money = anything you want daddy Xi

ever get involved in a land war in Asia

> Apple has, and will, fold to government pressure faster than a lawn chair.

So will any company, when threatened by China. And, btw, so will most countries.

Yes, Apple has a lot of money, but they're in no position to resist a powerful country. I don't think it's fair to expect that of them.

> So will any company, when threatened by China

Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit, Twitch, Dropbox, Medium, Wikipedia, DuckDuckGo?


You are making a very good point. There's no Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat etc in China. But there are WeChat, Baidu, Weibo, QQ, etc.

China is more than capable to clone and/or make its own version of these companies. And these companies will do as the government says. So, I think that's an excellent example to show that tech "boycotting" China does nothing to change them.

Separately, you should also keep in mind that a bunch of these companies didn't even have a choice, since they were considered a threat to national security by the state.

Whether or not China will clone an app is immaterial to question of whether all companies will fold to Chinese government pressure.

There are many large examples that just didn't, and they exited the market.

There are also many large examples that struck varying bargains. I'm sure the CCP didn't get everything they wanted from the referenced Apple deal, and there were hardliners who were pissed about it.

And then there are probably a ton of examples that don't even care to bargain and just say yes to whatever is asked.

So, complicated spectrum.

Side note, if I'm doing my quick math right, Apple's worldwide revenue is equivalent to 1.6% of China's GDP. Which is pretty impressive.

> Whether or not China will clone an app is immaterial to question of whether all companies will fold to Chinese government pressure.

It is very material though. If your business is not special/unique in some important way, then you don't have a lot of bargaining power when the CCP officials come to negotiate the terms. Then your choices boil down to -- accept whatever is offered or exit completely. While some exited completely, I very much doubt they did so on ethical grounds, as you seem to be implying. Rather, the terms were unsatisfiable.

Trying to get some sort of an acceptable to you deal is the only thing that makes sense from a business perspective. The alternative is losing access the world's biggest market and watching the state prop up a powerful new competitor that may well compete outside the borders of China too.

If you want American companies to be able to resist Chinese govt pressure, then you need to have significant intervention from the US government and hope that they will be able to broker some sort of a deal. Failing that, it's a joke to think that any company has any actual bargaining power in a negotiation with the Chinese govt.

This brings up the long debated question about China and Russia before them. Is it better to have US/Western companies operating with some concessions or better to boycott.

I'm still of the opinion it's better to operate with concessions because there is a chance of influencing the local population over time. Otherwise we end up with a completely siloed environment like has happened with parts of China's tech scene.

I tend to agree. The other drawbacks of a boycott are (obviously) the lost revenue, but also creating a vacuum that will be filled with a powerful, state-backed competitor that may some day operate outside of China as well.

>"...that may some day operate outside..."

You can replace may with will for sure.

Which HBO's Silicon Valley parodied: https://youtu.be/Km5XQxRrQvw

So Apple shouldn't build a mass surveillance tool that it knows it will be coerced to misuse.

If you know anything about China, then you know they have more than an abundant supply of mass surveillance tools. If Apple doesn't play ball with the local government, what do you think will happen? They'll ban them and the new market leader will be some Chinese company that probably copied a bunch of their designs and is more than happy to preinstall the govt rootkit.

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