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Amazon ‘Cut Ratings and Comments’ from Xi Jinping Book

An internal 2018 Amazon briefing document lays out a number of “core issues” affecting the e-commerce company’s China business

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The Amazon China logo is seen next to a Kindle e-reader. Photo illustration: Reuters

 

Beijing ordered Amazon.com not to allow customer ratings or comments on a collection of speeches and writings by Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

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

Ratings and reviews are a crucial part of Amazon’s e-commerce business, a major way of engaging shoppers, But Amazon complied, the two people said.

The government-published book has no customer reviews or any ratings on Amazon.cn and the comments section is disabled.

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

 

Part of Deeper Effort

An internal 2018 Amazon briefing document that describes the company’s China business lays out a number of “core issues” the Seattle-based giant has faced in the country.

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

The state-owned firm that partners with Amazon on its China Books project, China International Book Trading Corporation, told Reuters that the venture is a “commercial relationship between two enterprises”.

China’s National Press and Publication Administration, the state propaganda arm with which Amazon has had a partnership, had no comment.

Chinese censorship fell under the spotlight last month, when Disney+ launched in Hong Kong. An episode of the Fox series The Simpsons that references the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre to lampoon censorship was removed from the channel’s playlist.

 

  • Reuters, with George Russell

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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