Bezos’ China conspiracy theory after Musk’s Twitter buyout just 'sour grapes'
Published: Apr 26, 2022 11:13 PM
Tesla's founder Elon Musk inks a deal to purchase Twitter with $44 billion in cash. Photo: website

Tesla's founder Elon Musk inks a deal to purchase Twitter with $44 billion in cash. Photo: website

 In response to some reports' hype of China's influence following Elon Musk's buyout of Twitter, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said it was just "guessing" without any factual basis. While Musk described himself as a "free speech absolutist," some Chinese observers, who have been tagged as "China state-affiliated media" on Twitter, are calling on the platform to stop throwing labels around as the first step if Musk really values freedom of speech. Otherwise, it's just another example of playing double standards.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, asked on Twitter if Musk's $44 billion cash deal to purchase Twitter would give China "a little bit of leverage over town square," Reuters reported on Tuesday. The report said it was unclear what this deal means for Twitter's China content policy, given that Musk's Tesla depends heavily on China to produce and sell its vehicles. 

Responding to a question from a Reuters reporter about whether China will exert its influence on Twitter to promote "state media reports," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday that "You are very good at guessing but without any factual basis." 

Some Chinese experts said that Bezos perhaps wanted to hinder the buyout, partly because Musk's Tesla has been successful in China while Amazon failed to make inroads in the Chinese market. "Using the issue of China's so-called influence to question Musk is just 'sour grapes' mentality," Shen Yi, a professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

In Western countries, criticizing China has become normal, so Bezos' claims may seem persuasive, he said. But Bezos' tweet reflected his mindset of imposing a baseless political interpretation on a business deal which is just aimed at making profit, a Beijing-based expert on geopolitics and US-China relations who preferred not to be named told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

In some Western countries, there has been deep-rooted bias that China has no freedom of speech. But the "free speech" they advocate is usually criticism and smearing of China, and Bezos is one of them who always shares this bias and double standards toward China, he said. 

"I believe Musk has much better and deeper understanding of China than Bezos and will fully show his talent in operating Twitter's business," the expert added. 

While Musk has called himself a "free speech absolutist," Chinese officials, media representatives and companies hope this stance of valuing freedom of speech could bring some changes to the social media platform, which has imposed some discriminatory measures on Chinese media outlets and diplomats.

In a tweet, Musk said "I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means." Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies' US office responded, saying "we stand 100 percent behind a free marketplace. Oh… wait we can't do business here in the USA." 

Huawei is banned by the US government in the name of security reasons, while the latter has not provided any concrete evidence for such an arbitrary move.

In March, Twitter started flagging tweets from any individual account that includes a URL from what it considers to be a Chinese state media website, and such a move has caused inconvenience to the media and online users.

Twitter also permanently suspended former US president Donald Trump's account in January 2021 following the US Capitol riot, and Trump said he would not return to Twitter even if Musk reverses the ban, CNBC said.