How Apple Is More Authoritarian Than The Chinese Government

I am a fan of Apple’s products. I believe that the hardware is well-designed, and so is the software. In particular, I believe that the design philosophy behind Objective-C and Cocoa frameworks are the best thought-out and implemented tools for any developer looking for a strong and robust environment for object-oriented programming.

Like other Apple fans, I get excited at the new hardware the company puts out on a regular basis. I have reconciled myself to the fact that the top-of-the-line Macbook Pro I now use will shortly be replaced by a newly refreshed iteration of this line, and I will soon torment myself when I see others with their newer computers. The sames goes for my iPod touch.

I am also a fan of Steve Jobs; he shows what can be done by a very smart guy who has fallen down a few times in life who now has a good plan, and who just focuses on implementing his plan. The guy knows exactly what he wants, and doesn’t let anyone or anything get in the way of his plans. He is the poster boy for a smart authoritarian and autocratic management in an organization. I’m convinced that without a firm grasp of the challenges the company faced in 1997, Apple would have quickly gone into bankruptcy.

Steve Jobs saved Apple.

This is why I get upset with the company’s policies towards China. I mean, for Apple to criticize the Chinese government for not being open and nice to minorities is just completely wide of the mark.

With this in mind, let me show you how the Chinese government, in comparison to Apple’s management, is in fact much more open and democratic:

  • China now has a group leadership on the national level. Who is in the group leadership at Apple? And how much do you see others besides Steve Jobs talking about “different directions” at Apple?
  • Who is going to be the successor to President Hu Jintao. I can name several candidates including Xi Jinping, Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, just to name a few. Who is going to succeed Steve Jobs? I can’t name any.
  • Leaking any information about any new products which have not yet been announced at Apple are grounds for immediate dismissal. Same goes for China.
  • Apple employees are not allowed to publish unofficial blogs without company permission. Doing so may be grounds for dismissal. China has 100 million blogs; all of them are unofficial.
  • In private meetings with Steve Jobs and Apple senior and executive management, the senior and executive management turn and look to Steve Jobs for permission to speak before speaking, even when they are addressed directly. The Chinese national government leadership is more relaxed than Steve about other senior officials speaking about national affairs.
  • For many Apple employees, the most dreaded moment is sharing the same elevator ride with Steve. If he talks to them and he asks what they do, and they go not give a good response, he just might terminate them.

Basically, Apple (the company) is an extension and implementation of one man’s (Steve Jobs) vision of what the consumer electronics and computing industry should look like. And ironically, laws in the US permit Steve Jobs to run his company in a very autocratic fashion. I have not yet heard of people being “dismissed” from China because they were not productive according to one ruler’s definition. On the contrary, the Chinese government goes out of its way to keep the Chinese economy on a growth track, creating more jobs. (I must admit that I think many of these jobs are of questionable value, but that’s another discussion.)

And yet, Apple doesn’t like things the Chinese government does because they are less than democratic and are autocratic? How many current Apple employees do you see protesting at the way the company is run? I’ll tell you how many there are.

Zero, nada, zilch.

Sure, Steve Jobs is running a company and the Chinese government is running a country, but is there anything to suggest that Steve would act any differently and suddenly become open and democratic if he were running a country?

Come on Steve, look in the mirror. When it comes to autocracy, the Chinese government can’t hold a candle to you.

I’m really trying to wrap my mind around this and am trying very very hard to understand Apple’s criticisms of China. If anyone can explain this to me, I’m all ears.

15 Responses to “How Apple Is More Authoritarian Than The Chinese Government”

  1. Florian Pihs says:

    Paul, looking to reach you to discuss your IAB presentation at the Web Analytics Wednesday. Can’t reach you by phone or email. Please call me when you are available.

    Florian Pihss last blog post..Olympics and Web Analytics, between PR and reality

  2. dedlam says:

    I see your point, and the point that I see is that autocracy works and democracy works less.

    Thing is, in the case of both Apple and China the autocracy works only in the presence of democracy (or individual freedom which is how I am defining democracy). Apple would not be so successful if people did not have choice to buy their products and similarly China’s economic success is due largely to the fact that major western economies to not prohibit the purchase of China made products because it creates unemployment and creates an unfavourable balance of trade. They might put some tariffs on Chinese products but that’s a half hearted attempt at protectionism at best.

    There is no light without darkness.

    dedlams last blog post..The Face and the Voice

  3. […] tell me! @pdenlinger’s excellent article tells us the buck-naked truth. So here is “free” Apple, apparently thinking the PRC is […]

  4. nicerobot says:

    Comparing running a Country to a corporation isn’t valid. Corporations are voluntary participation in a dictatorship whereas Countries rule the people because of birth, involuntarily. It’s why countries should all be a form of democracy because ALL humans deserve to live free. Whereas the same isn’t required in a corporate culture. No apple employee (that i know of) lives at 1 Infinite Loop. They all chose to work there and they can leave whenever they want.

    I just don’t think it’s valid to conflate how a person runs a corporation with their attitudes towards democracy.

  5. Dan says:

    I find your analysis completely fruity. You are comparing apples and oranges. One is a company and one is a country.

    Dans last blog post..Obama/Biden vs. McCain/Palin On China

  6. bert says:

    Are you writing again?

    To compare these two things is just some weak attempt to make China look fine and dandy. You know the truth or the sad fact is that you don’t know. People can quit working for Apple, Chinese can’t quit working for China.

  7. Thomas says:

    Religious belief
    Steve Jobs saved Apple – Now in his greatness he want’s to save China. After all, his is an authoritarian and autocratic manager, acting in an instrumental rational (weber) manner.
    If You beleive You know You’re wrong! Did You save Apple? No! Do You like Apple? Yes!
    So because Steve saved Your apple, he is also a better gardener than You. The proof to this is His act in instrumentally handling the objects for a successfull rational decision, manifesting in (you) the customer bying his product. The calculated profitability went from probability to true. In the same way, Hitler rationally moved to power in a Democratic Germany, choosen (elected) by his people, to become the sole authoritarian and autocratic manager of His country. The autobahn is still there, the tests, and experiences, from the camps, have been taken care of because their economic value.

    Now the Good Guys want You to buy His Apple, His Democratic Apple.

    Americans are a very religious people in different ways. One beleif is in their own supremacy in different ways.

    What China is doing now, is steering, like a dragon, in a sea of blood, tormented and governed by authoritarian and autocratic pirates, pirates who are rationally governing their ships, country or company, craving for more.
    That’s not a play, not even a fair game.
    And one of the pieces on the false chess table, is the democratic player, an apple which the pirates want You to eat, blindfolded, listening to the sweet preaches of the Captain. What they don’t tell you, is that this apple is under its beatifully skin, sweet smelling, infested with wery small worms, some which the Captain can control at his will, some which may run wild, like Hitler, the crown jewel of western democracy.

    China has a population larger than Europe and United States.
    Imagine China with a leader, lifting the phone, and asking, “I want you to tell me, spiritually, what do you sense?” (, in trying to solve some problem affecting millions of people.
    Bush was elected in a Democracy.
    So was Hitler to, and his legacy still lives on, buried deep in the Institutions of democracy.
    And Hitler emerged in a Democracy.
    China has never had Democracy (western democracy).
    Iraq is occupied, in a colonial way, by a Democratic nation. Result? Disaster!
    China has an authoritarian and autocratic leadership in the political sense. People don’t have the opportunity to choose their leader in some comical election of the few, people who with the legitimacy of the electoral results may screw the population later, where people dumbfoundedly tell themselves “You get the leaders you deserve” (
    So why should China import that poison?
    And whats the result for China with its leadership up to now? Success! And with Bush in America?

    I really hope, and so beleive, China will develop their own peoples partipication and rights.

    Thomass last blog post..Custom List: Firefox plugins

  8. Will Lewis says:

    The fatal flaw, aside from company v. country:

    “Basically, Apple (the company) is an extension and implementation of one man’s (Steve Jobs) vision of what the consumer electronics and computing industry should look like.”

    Apple is actually Mr. Jobs’, Apple’s board, and Apple executives’ conception of the best way for Apple to sell its products within the consumer electronics and computing industry. Apple would lose all of its unique value and competitive edge if the consumer electronics industry fit Apple’s “vision.” They’re not imposing an authoritarian vision on the industry, they’re just trying to woo customers.

    Many Apple customers tend to be in the cool hip liberal crowd as symbolized by Mac Guy. They don’t like HR violations.

    Will Lewiss last blog post..Posts of the Week: 8/25 – 8/31

  9. dedlam says:


    I’m not sure I understand although I would like to. Can you dumb down the comment for me. Hitler & Dragons & Blood & worms & jewels are making my head spin.

    I thought apple sold computers, phones and MP3 players.

  10. Thomas says:

    “Can you dumb down the comment for me.”

    No need.
    Just be Yourself, read a nice blogpost, e.g

    Or why not dwelve in some old chinese wisdom.

    Perhaps the picture of the Dragon is more clear now?

    “I thought apple sold computers, phones and MP3 players.”
    “Many Apple customers tend to be in the cool hip liberal crowd as symbolized by Mac Guy. They don’t like HR violations.”

    China is so exciting and promising right now!

    Thomass last blog post..Custom List: Firefox plugins

  11. Brendan says:

    In Neal Stephenson’s essay ‘In the Beginning Was the Command Line,’ he talks a bit about the corporate culture of Microsoft and Apple, and notes that paradoxically Microsoft is in a lot of ways more open than Apple is. He doesn’t bring up China as a comparison, but he does note the tendency of hippie communes in the 60s to be run by people who were, deep down inside, total control freaks.

    In other news, I remember seeing a story recently about some Apple developers suing the company, so someone there is speaking out at least.

    Brendans last blog post..T+12 – Opening Ceremonies

  12. JD says:

    So if a private company like Apple is authoritarian, what can be said about a state-owned company like Lenovo?

  13. I was recently a visitor to your beautiful country.I found your people to be very kind and hospitable.I would very much like to visit your country again in the near future.God bless China and the province of Sichuan,forgive me if I spelled it incorrectly but I was very sad when I visited Guanxi province and learned of the tragedy of the earthquake while I was in your peaceful country.Once again I am commenting China for being so kind to me while I was visiting all you beautiful people.xie xie Rick

  14. Raphael says:

    Why not comparing a country to a company? Thinking outside the box is to think differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel, creative and smart thinking. To think outside the box is to look further and try not to think of the obvious things, but try and think beyond that.
    Metaphor is the concept of understanding one thing in terms of another. A metaphor is a figure of speech that constructs an analogy between two things or ideas; the analogy is conveyed by the use of a metaphorical word in place of some other word. Without metaphor no E=MC2, no Zaha Hadid, no poetry, no good advertising, no evolution, no design, no woman ( I believe that a female is God’s metaphor of a better male). No “flaw”, “fruity” here. Just a democratic invitation to debate Apple’s criticisms of China. I share the moderator’s opinion. I also fail to understand.

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