WUZHEN (Reuters) – Top executives at Apple Inc and Facebook Inc managed to find something to praise Beijing for at an internet conference in China this week, even as its Communist Party rulers ban Western social media and stamp on online dissent.
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China’s World Internet Conference attracted the heads of Google and Apple for the first time to hear China vow to open up its internet – just as long as it can guard cyberspace in the same way it guards its borders.
The tacit endorsement of the event by top US tech executives comes as China introduces strict new rules on censorship and data storage, causing headaches for foreign tech firms permitted to do business in China and signalling that restrictions banning others are unlikely to be lifted any time soon.
“I’d compliment the Chinese government in terms of leadership on using data,” Facebook Vice President Vaughan Smith said on Tuesday, citing government bodies such as the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).
“The Chinese government, the CAC and MIIT are doing a fabulous job on that.”
Facebook and Google aren’t accessible in China behind the country’s Great Firewall, along with major Western news outlets and social media sites, while Apple is subject to strict censorship. The US firm removed dozens of popular messaging and virtual private network (VPN) apps from its China App Store this year to comply with government requests.
“The theme of this conference, developing a digital economy for openness and shared benefits, is a vision we at Apple share,” Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said on Sunday. The audience cheered him twice – once when he reached the podium, and again when he bowed.