Amazon Removed Reviews of Xi Jinping's Book on Orders From Beijing: Report

Amazon elected to remove all comments and reviews tied to a listing on its Chinese site marketing the speeches and writings of the country's Communist leader Xi Jinping after Beijing issued an order demanding the feedback be removed from its site.

This action took place about two years ago but reportedly wasn't covered until Reuters released a "special report" on Friday. In its report, the outlet wrote that the government demand was prompted after a negative review was posted.

Given Amazon's reliance on customer reviews and ratings as a part of its platform, the move comes as a sharp contrast to the company's usual manner of conducting business. Reuters wrote that this sacrifice to appease the wishes of Xi's government come as part of the firm's strategy to maintain favor in China.

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

The founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff
Amazon has worked to cement its place within the Chinese economy over the years. Here, Jeff Bezos talks to the press during a news conference in Shanghai, 07 June 2007. Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

According to an internal 2018 briefing by Amazon, maintained by Reuters, Amazon has identified that "Ideological control and propaganda is the core of the toolkit for the communist party to achieve and maintain its success." In approaching the issue, Amazon wrote that "We are not making judgment on whether it is right or wrong."

In addition to this approach, additional information obtained by Reuters showed that the company partnered with "an arm of China's propaganda apparatus" to create a selling portal on its American website, with the project being coined as "China Books." Reuters reported that the company saw this move as "crucial to winning support" in the country.

Many of the books sold through this project are apolitical, such as pieces on Chinese cooking, language, and children's stories. However, others "amplify the Communist Party's official line," Reuters wrote. One book promotes life in Xinjiang where the United Nations reported that around 1 million Uyghurs work in forced labor camps. Reuters wrote that one book quoted a comedy actor who plays an Uyghur "country bumpkin" and said that ethnicity is "not a problem" there.

The United Nations' news department wrote that "more than 150" Chinese and foreign companies are connected to "serious allegations of human rights abuses against" Uyghur workers that include "exploitative working and abusive living conditions." While China has denied the claims, America has taken them seriously, instituting a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Amazon provided Newsweek with the following statement regarding the Reuters report.

"As a bookseller, we believe that providing access to the written word and diverse perspectives is important. That includes books that some may find objectionable, though we have policies governing which books can be listed for sale in every country and jurisdiction in which we operate."

The statement continued, "We have a wide selection of books on the subject of China. is an additional channel for serving our Chinese readers in the United States and elsewhere, giving them access to Chinese titles outside the country. China International Book Trading Corp. (CIBTC) is just one of the millions of selling partners around the world offering products in our stores."

The statement added that details about the company are available online and that CIBTC's name and logo are prominently placed on its page. Amazon called its relationship with CIBTC "entirely appropriate."