- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2022

Amazon said Thursday it will shutter its Kindle service in China next year, making it the latest big technology company looking to diminish its presence in the communist country. 

Amazon’s announcement follows reports this week that Apple is moving some production out of China and comes after Microsoft-owned LinkedIn’s decision last year to remove the social component of its service for people in China

Amazon said its Kindle bookstore will cease operating in China on June 30, 2023, but it is not leaving the Chinese market. 

“We want to assure customers that, by downloading their eBook content to their device, they can continue to access their content after this date,” said Amazon spokesperson Michelle Taylerson in a statement. “We will continue to support Kindle devices and there will be no change to the customer service and warranty that we provide. For customers not wanting to keep using their device, we are offering a refund as an option if they purchased an eligible Kindle after Jan. 1, 2022.”

Ms. Taylerson said Amazon remains committed to its business in China and she said it periodically evaluates its offerings. Other Amazon services remaining operable in China involve advertising, store, logistics and web services products. 

The e-commerce giant’s pullback of its digital reader in China arrives on the heels of reporting that Apple is shifting some of its production of iPads from China to Vietnam amid COVID-19 lockdown policies and supply chain disruptions, according to Nikkei Asia.

Amazon and Apple are not the first American tech companies to walk away from providing services in China. In December 2021, LinkedIn opened a new version of its app in China that was designed to exclude free expression and have a limited function as a digital job board.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said China is a bad place for business and he wants tech companies to take notice. 

“Slave labor is widespread, government lockdowns are unpredictable, the Chinese Communist Party is stealing technology, and U.S. policy is slowly recognizing the need to move critical supply chains out of China,” Mr. Rubio said in a statement. “I hope these companies are finally waking up and that others follow.” 

Weifeng Zhong, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, said lockdowns and COVID-19 policies are affecting these businesses’ decisions but Chinese imitations of American Big Tech products have also caused a reassessment of the market by American companies. 

“Adding to this competitive pressure is the demographic shift in China as a result of the one-child policy, which has led to a marked increase in labor cost and, hence, a different cost-benefit calculus for foreign companies manufacturing products in China,” Mr. Zhong said in an email. “These trends mean that at least some degree of “distancing” from the Chinese market is inevitable for America’s largest tech companies. But because much of that is a business calculation, it’s unlikely corporations will pursue the more dramatic, Cold War-style “decoupling” from China.”

Mr. Zhong created the Policy Change Index for China, which uses artificial intelligence to predict the Chinese government’s behavior. He said his machine-learning tool had not yet detected signs that the corporate moves had given Beijing any pause.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment. 

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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