Zoom is certainly not the first American tech company to find itself in such a situation. Apple, for example, does significant business in China, but is at the same time expected to preach Western standards on issues like freedom of speech. Recently, it came under fire for removing a Hong Kong protest app from its app store. Microsoft-owned Skype, before it was completely removed from app stores in China in 2017, also had a China-only version of its software that censored a specific list of words

At the core of the issue is whether those companies should uphold their American values even if that means they giving up on the lucrative China market, as Google did, or continue their operations in the country by compromising certain practices such as adopting advanced censorship systems. Google, which initially accommodated Chinese censorship requests in 2006 in order to operate there, eventually decided to shutter its search product in China in 2010 after it detected attempts from China to hack into Gmail accounts, including those of human-rights activists. A plan to re-enter the market with a censored version of its search engine was scrapped last year.

Zhou said he agrees with the path that Google chose when faced with China’s restrictions, but also noted that as it is difficult for a single American company to stand up to Beijing, the US government should help, for example, with “countermeasures to force China to open up its internet.”

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